A complex, fascinating Franco-Italian spat for media control, poorly rendered.

Author:Serafini, Yuri
Position:Book review

Vincent Bollore: The New King of The European Media, by Italian financial reporter Fiorina Capozzi (96 pages, jointly published by goWare and kay4biz) is an ambitious book recounting the ascent of Vincent Bollore, a 65-year-old native of Brittany in northwest France who turned his family paper business into a diversified global conglomerate with close ties to the French government. The book is a timely expose of the principal achievements of one of the key players of continental European business, however it falls short of the mark far too often.

Although he gained a reputation in France as a corporate raider, today Bollore's eponymous holding company extracts about half of its turnover from shipping to and from Africa. Particular attention is given to Bollore's corporate mantra, which intermingled expansionary diversification while safeguarding family control over the group that carries his name. The author points out an interesting trend, exposing the outside support, which Vincent relied on at multiple points in his career; not only did he count on outside financiers supporting his many acquisitions, but oftentimes he relied on purchasing a minority stake in companies where he could count on the collaboration of existing board members to cooperate with him, allowing him to control entire companies while holding between 20 percent and 30 percent of shares.

The book also recounts how Bollore's aggressiveness and opportunism did more than once sour a negotiation: a difficult relationship with the executive board of the oil conglomerate Elf leading to heated discussions over a company jointly owned with Bollore, which went as far as involving Jacques Chirac's Minister of Industry, Alain Madelin.

Madelin isn't the only politician who appears in Capozzi's book. Bollore is also close friends with the former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and the Bollore holding company is often represented as a vaguely mercantilist representative of French interests abroad. A peculiar incident when the president of the Ivory Coast stopped him from purchasing a tobacco company is painfully unexplored; we only know Bollore was somehow stopped from leaving his hotel room for three days, however we are not told the intricacies of the deal which led to the businessman being almost held hostage.

Half the book is dedicated to Bollore's investments in Italy. His first sally was in the capital of an investment bank, Mediobanca, and an insurance company, Assicurazioni...

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