Over the last few days, a drama has been playing out over at Ubisoft. Vivendi, the company that once owned Activision before it was bought out in a multi-billion dollar deal, acquired 6.6% of shares in Ubisoft. This was seen by Ubisoft as “unsolicited and unwelcome,” according to an internal email, and since then CEO Yves Guillemot has stated that the publisher would fight for independence.
In response, Vivendi has purchased even more.
This is all a bit evocative of David and Goliath, if David was also a big, powerful giant rather than a sympathetic young man.
Gamesindustry.biz reported the equity acquisition last week, after which Guillemot sent out an email to employees explaining that the purchase was not welcome. A takeover is what the CEO fears, and in a second email he explained that, if Ubisoft was acquired by Vivendi, it would be "managed by people who don't understand our expertise and what it takes to succeed in this industry."
Of course Vivendi is far from an industry outsider. Until 2013, it was the majority shareholder in Activision Blizzard, and before that it had its own game publishing division.
"Our intention is and has always been to remain independent, a value which, for 30 years, has allowed us to innovate, take risks, create beloved franchises for players around the world, and which has helped the company grow into the leader it is today," Guillemot said in a statement.
"We're going to fight to preserve our independence. We should not let this situation - nor any future actions by Vivendi or others - distract us from our goals. Our best defence is to stay focused on what we have always done best - deliver the most original and memorable gaming experiences."
While Guillemot was noting Ubisoft’s history as a risk taker and an innovator, the publisher was primed to release the ninth game in the main Assassin’s Creed series since 2007, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate.
It doesn’t look like Vivendi is particularly concerned about not being welcomed by Ubisoft, because the media company has gobbled up even great equity stake in the publisher, increasing what it holds to 10.39%. It’s unlikely that it will stop there.
“The Group reserves the right to increase its stake in these two companies [the second company is Gameloft] depending on market conditions and the possibility, in due time, to be represented on their board.”