PARIS — Helping out a family friend — and widening his media holdings — Bernard Arnault has taken a minority stake in embattled publishing and retail conglomerate Lagardère SCA via his Groupe Arnault holding.
Following a capital increase and share purchase, Groupe Arnault will hold a stake equivalent to around one-quarter of the share capital of Lagardère Capital & Management (LCM), Arnaud Lagardère’s holding company.
The development offered an additional safety net to Lagardère, who in recent months had to fend off an activist investor, Amber Capital, that had attempted to take control of the ailing company.
At Lagardère’s annual general meeting earlier this month, shareholders rejected all 18 resolutions submitted by Amber to assemble a new supervisory board.
A joint statement Monday said the Arnault and Lagardère families would share the long-term strategic interest for the company, active in book publishing under the Hachette umbrella, plus travel retail under the Relay, Aelia Duty Free and Vino Volo banners.
“This linkup will strengthen the corporate structure and financial capacities of LCM. The family groups led by Bernard Arnault and Arnaud Lagardère will act in concert with regard to Lagardère SCA,” it added.
It is understood the investment was made out of loyalty to the Lagardère family — Arnault was very close to founder Jean-Luc Lagardère, Arnaud Lagardère’s father — more than a belief in the media group’s current business prospects.
“I have welcomed Arnaud Lagardère’s proposal to join forces with him,” Bernard Arnault, also the chairman and chief executive of luxury giant LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said in a statement. “My friendship with Jean-Luc Lagardère brought our families together, and I have the utmost respect for the group that he built. I am delighted that we are now, alongside Arnaud Lagardère, a long-term shareholder of the company that bears his name.”
Lagardère said he and Arnault “have long shared the values of family entrepreneurship. Groupe Arnault’s exceptional achievements in France and worldwide, its success in the field of distribution and its investment in the creative and cultural industries, are aligned with the fundamentals of my group and are the mark of an enduring and productive working relationship.”
Bernard Arnault was on the supervisory board of Lagardère SCA from 2004 to 2012, and his son Antoine, chief executive of Berluti and head of communication and image at LVMH, took a seat from 2012 to 2013. In turn, Arnaud Lagardère sat on the board of LVMH from 2003 to 2009.
Via LVMH, Arnault also has investments in French newspapers Le Parisien and Les Echos, the Radio Classique station, plus the financial weekly Investir and magazine Connaissance des Arts.
Groupe Arnault’s investments, meanwhile, include a 16 percent stake in retail giant Carrefour SA via Blue Capital, an investment fund owned by Groupe Arnault and Colony Capital.
Founded in 1992, Lagardère generated 7.21 billion euros in revenues in 2019. It operates in 40 countries and employs 30,000 people.
Revenues in the first quarter of this year dipped 12.5 percent to 1.36 billion euros, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, particularly on travel retail.
Over the past decade, the group has whittled down its activities, particularly in magazine publishing, though it still holds the Elle brand license and owns the iconic celebrity title Paris Match and weekly newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
In 2011, Lagardère sold 102 international titles to Hearst Magazines, most notably Elle in 15 countries, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Italy, Russia, China and Japan. It sold off its stake in Marie Claire in 2018.
Monday’s statement noted that the partnership between Groupe Arnault and LCM is subject to the approval of the employee representative bodies of the entities concerned.
The parties have yet to make the requisite declarations to the French financial markets authority.