Vivendi edges closer to Ubisoft with hostile Gameloft takeover

First step in Vivendi's bid to control Ubisoft is apparently complete.

Multimedia conglomerate Vivendi has succeeded in its hostile takeover of mobile game publisher Gameloft. The acquisition, confirmed by Bloomberg, is noteworthy because, as the Globe and Mail reported in February, it's the first step in a more ambitious gambit involving Ubisoft: Both companies are owned by the Guillemot family, which recently sought (and apparently failed to gain) the support of Canadian investors as part of its effort to fend off Vivendi's advances.

Vivendi now controls about 56 percent of Gameloft's voting shares, according to the report, which also says that current CEO Michel Guillemot—brother to Ubisoft boss Yves—now intends to resign.  With Gameloft bagged, Liberium Capital analysts said the "most obvious next step" is that Vivendi will turn its full attention to Ubisoft, which is where things get a little more relevant to us. 

Vivendi used to own Activision, until a multi-billion-dollar deal a few years ago brought the relationship to a close. But as the Gameloft board of directors noted in its rejection of the initial buyout offer, the Activision experience demonstrates that Vivendi “does not have any specific know-how in the videogame industry.” 

“The recent sale of Activision by Vivendi illustrates its lack of strategic vision in the long term in the gaming industry,” it said. “Moreover, the unfavorable trend of revenues and profitability of Activision over the last years during which the group was held by Vivendi illustrates its lack of knowledge of value creation levers in the gaming industry.” 

That wording was obviously intended to sway Gameloft shareholders, but it does accurately reflect the fact that not all that terribly long ago, Vivendi had control of the biggest, most money-in-the-bank publisher in the business, and didn't know what to do with it. That leads to two obvious questions: Why does Vivendi want back into the business it just got out of (and with a lesser player), and can an it do any better this time—especially if it ends up with a Ubisoft lacking much of its top talent?   

Vivendi is expected to appoint a majority of directors to Gameloft's board at the annual shareholders meeting later this month. Ubisoft's next shareholder meeting is slated for September; I would expect to see more sparks fly as it grows closer. Prepare whatever passes for popcorn on investor conference calls.


As lead news writer during ‘merican hours, Andy covers the day-to-day events that keep PC gaming so interesting, exciting, and occasionally maddening. He’s fond of RPGs, FPSs, dungeons, Myst, and the glorious irony of his parents buying him a TRS-80 instead of an Atari so he wouldn't end up wasting his life on videogames.


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