Senior managers of the Publicis network are poised to become
shareholders after the settlement of a bitter boardroom battle between
the daughters of the group’s late founder that had threatened to spill
over into the courts.
The agreement between Michele Bleustein-Blanchet and Elisabeth Badinter
will allow share option schemes to be created for executives.
But while the deal ensures that the group remains under the control of
the Bleustein-Blanchet family, it will also turn Michele into one of
France’s richest women, worth an estimated pounds 100 million, when she
disposes of her shareholdings.
At the same time, it gives Maurice Levy, the Publicis chairman, control
over a large proportion of the group’s shares with which to incentivise
The ownership of Publicis was thrown into question last year when
Michele said she was selling her shares, held directly and indirectly
via her stake in the Publicis holding company, Somarel.
The disposal of her 20 per cent interest on the open market threatened
to upset the complex family trust system put in place by Marcel
Bleustein-Blanchet, who died in April 1996, to ensure the family
remained in control of Publicis and to protect its independence. The
family currently owns 62 per cent of Publicis’s stock. The rest is
traded on the Paris stock exchange.
When Badinter, as chairman of the Publicis supervisory board, blocked
the sale, Michele filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve Somarel.
As a result of negotiations conducted by Levy, both Michele and Nicolas
Rachline, another investor, will dispose of a total of 44.52 per cent of
Meanwhile, Badinter bolsters her control of the company by bringing her
total interest to 40.78 per cent.
Somarel changes its status from a private to a public company with 37.1
per cent of its capital shared equally by MLMS, a new company formed to
facilitate employee shareholding, and institutional investors.
Levy said the agreement reinforced Publicis’s independence and
encouraged ’even more personal involvement by the people at the heart of