Ubisoft has announced plans to expand its board of directors by nominating two new independent directors in an attempt to stave off a potential hostile takeover bid by French media conglomerate Vivendi. Assassin's Creed creator Ubisoft has been trying to fend off Vivendi's unwanted advances for the past few months while the latter has been gradually increasing its stake in the gaming company since October 2015.
Currently holding 20.1% of Ubisoft's stock and looking to acquire more shares, Vivendi has maintained that it aims to build "a fruitful cooperation" with the company and has "no plans" to attempt an Ubisoft takeover.
Ubisoft, which has been implementing various strategies to fight Vivendi's "unsolicited and unwelcome" moves in recent months, said in a press release that it has nominated Frédérique Dame and Florence Naviner to join its board as independent directors. If approved at the 29 September general shareholders meeting, this would increase the number of independent directors to five and the total number of directors to 10, diluting the leverage Vivendi could wield on the board should it successfully buy its way into the company.
While Dame was an executive at Uber from 2012 to 2016, Naviner is the Senior Vice President and CFO of Wrigley. One of Ubisoft's independent directors, Estelle Metayer, will be stepping down this fall.
In February, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot, who founded the company in 1986 with his brothers, noted that they would require 50% or more of the voting rights to tackle Vivendi attempts to introduce changes to its board of directors.
In June, Vivendi took over Ubisoft's sister company Gameloft which was also founded by Ubisoft founders, the Guillemot brothers.
Vivendi previously owned Activision Blizzard until a multi-billion dollar buyback ended the relationship in 2013. In its rejection of the initial buyout offer, the Gameloft board of directors said that the relationship and experience between Activision and Vivendi highlighted the fact that the latter "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," the board said. "Moreover, the unfavourable trend of revenues and profitability of Activisionover the last years during which the group was held by Vivendi illustrates its lack of knowledge of value creation levers in the gaming industry."