Nobody, and I mean nobody, likes a hostile takeover. There's nothing worse than that sinking feeling that someone is trying to best you by underhanded means. Say your boss hires a new coworker. They seem nice enough, they get along with pretty much everyone, but there's something just... off about them. This is exactly the situation that's happened to the family that owns Ubisoft. Not just once, but twice. A multinational mass media conglomerate housed in France called Vivendi seemed to have a bone to pick with the Guillemot family.
Originally, Vivendi was that new sparkly coworker at Gameloft. They bought some stock and came in with all kinds of ideas for how things could be improved. Before anyone knew it, Vivendi owned 56% of Gameloft's stock and appointed a new board of directors. The previous owners had been relegated to a mere 21.7% of ownership by comparison. Michel Guillemot was the residing CEO at Gameloft before Vivendi's push and shove takeover occurred. And his brother Yves has been fighting the good fight over at Ubisoft ever since.
Like an ever encroaching darkness, Vivendi slowly started buying stocks at Ubisoft. This began in 2015. It makes perfect sense that the Guillemot family would be a little suspicious from the get-go, after what happened with Gameloft. But Vivendi continued their crawl. At the end of the road, they owned 27.3% of Ubisoft. If that had been rounded up to 30%, French law would have required Vivendi to make an offer to purchase Ubisoft. Their brute force approach would have won out yet again. The Guillemot family fought against Vivendi's purchases long and hard until March 2018.
The beast has finally been beaten back, and Vivendi has agreed to sell off all of their Ubisoft stocks. Some of these have already been bought, some are owned by Ubisoft, and still others will be sold to other parties. Why in the world would Vivendi give up their battle? Well, it's because they won the war.
The 27.3% of Ubisoft that Vivendi owned had been paid for with $919 million. Ubisoft paid the exorbitant price of $2.47 billion to win it back. Whatever ulterior motives and plans Vivendi might have had for Ubisoft probably seemed paltry compared to that sum. Plus they got the instant gratification of having “won,” rather than having to continue fighting for years on end.
Needless to say, Ubisoft is very much going to have their guard up when it comes to any investors they deal with from here on out. They've been bested and almost bested by Vivendi. The two investors that have already purchased Vivendi's previous stock are the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan and Tencent. The former seems like an odd buyer for a video game company, but the latter makes perfect sense. Tencent is the Chinese gaming giant that handles the distribution of all kinds of titles in their home country. They also host online games and own stock in various different game development and publishing companies. Needless to say, Ubisoft will have their hackles raised and do their best not to let anyone (Tencent included) “pull a Vivendi” on them.
It stands to reason that any other developer or publisher in the video game industry is probably making sure they've got eyes in the back of their heads too. This was a lesson learned the hard way for Ubisoft, but everyone else can learn from them too. If it looks like an individual or a company is vacuuming up a lot of shares, the publisher might want to have a conversation with them. Or at the least, they'll want to take measures to prevent them from sucking up even more. There will always be companies that don't mind a takeover, or a buy-out, and more power to them. But I'd wager that most video game developers and publishers would like to hold onto their reigns for as long as they want, not for as long as someone else decides they can.
What do you think of the Vivendi versus Ubisoft battle of the ages? Are you happy with the outcome? Surprised? Sad? Whatever you're feeling, I'd love to hear about it in the comments!
Image Credit: Xeronoxic