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Lagardere defends leadership over activist investor criticism

Arnaud Lagardere (pictured), second-generation head of the family-controlled media group Lagardere SCA, has defended his strategy and commitment to the France-based company following criticism from activist investor Guy Wyser-Pratte.

Wyser-Pratte is the owner of New York-based Wyser-Pratte Management Co, an active investing fund focused on undervalued European equities. He has released a series of statements attempting to rally support for his appointment to the Lagardere board.

In one such statement, released on April 14th, he accused Lagardere of spending shareholders money "with reckless abandon" after the company unveiled adverts highlighting their opposition to his proposed appointment. A shareholder meeting, which will include a vote on Wsyer-Pratte's proposals, will be held on 27 April.

"I have been reshaping this group for 10 years," Lagardere told the Financial Times yesterday. "I have almost reinvented it. It was a conglomerate 10 years ago; it is now a pure media play… And I have done it without destroying shareholder value and without making lots of debt, while always maintaining pay-outs to shareholders."
 
In response to claims he lacked full commitment to the company he inherited from his father, Lagardere said: "I am fascinated by the group, it is my passion. I will go all the way. I have lots of ideas that I want to put in place."

Lagardere was founded in 1992 by Arnaud's father Jean-Luc Lagardere when he brought together his holdings in French aerospace company Matra and publishing house Hachette. The group recorded 2009 revenues of €8.3 billion and today operates in more than 40 countries.

Related links:

Debate: "Activist investors: friend or foe?

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