Yesterday was a good day for Ubisoft's efforts to maintain its independence. Media conglomerate Vivendi, which has been moving toward acquiring a controlling interest in the company, unexpectedly chose not to nominate its own people to fill two openings on the Ubisoft board of directors, allowing Ubi to appoint the independent directors it nominated back in June. Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot and his brother Gerard, the CEO of Ubisoft Motion Pictures, were also re-elected to the board.
"The shareholders expressed massive support for the strategy and the management of Ubisoft, approving all the ordinary resolutions submitted at the AGM [Annual General Meeting]," it said in a statement.
According to CNBC, Vivendi made no proposals during the meeting, nor did any of its reps speak during the Q&A session. However, it also abstained from voting on resolutions "related to employee stock grants and options," which prevented them from passing. Ubisoft described the abstentions as "systematic obstruction, impeding the proper functioning of the Company, in particular regarding its competitive compensation policy for its talents."
It's a little surprising that Vivendi didn't try to force the matter at the AGM, but it's also unlikely that it's going to simply walk away at this point. The Guillemots recently purchased three percent of Ubisoft's stock from French investment bank Bpifrance, but Vivendi, which now holds 23 percent of the company's shares, remains in a dominant position. It may now be looking ahead to a hostile takeover attempt, similar to its forced acquisition of the formerly Guillemot-owned mobile publisher Gameloft earlier this year.
Ubisoft is working hard to avoid that fate. Expanding the board with directors of its own choosing will presumably make it more difficult for Vivendi to assume control, and the Guillemots have also been seeking outside support to help shore up its independence. And while this doesn't really count for anything in a boardroom, the publisher also appears to be working hard to improve its credibility with gamers, most recently by saying that it won't bring back Assassin's Creed and Far Cry in 2017 if they're not properly ready.