For those that understand French, I very much recommend this excellent documentary on Vincent Bolloré. I found it to be quite unbiased, surprisingly.
Disclosure: long a bit of BOL (main thesis being that a full simplification is a catalyst for the unlocking of the NAV which is at ~2X the share price by virtue of the economic share count which stands at around 50% of the total share count, after accounting for the circular ownership loops. The timing is very unclear, but in the meantime NAV is compounded at a decent rate. The author did a very similar exercise as the highly recommended Muddy Waters analysis that came out just months after)
For everyone else, I have summarized the documentary:
- in France, Vincent Bolloré has the nickname “two-faced smiling killer”
- Bolloré has a smartphone app counting down the moment he steps down. I think this shows he is obsessed by providing the “right” company to his family successor (whatever that is, importantly it could include a simpler structure)
- when Bolloré started at the family company after his Rothschild banking experience, he managed to negotiate a 25% wage cut in his family’s rolling paper factory legacy business when the factories faced cyclical headwinds. This is almost unheard of in France and it shows his influencing skills.
- the name Bolloré in Africa is very famous. Bolloré uses his abundance of smarts, political connections (including personal friends Sarkozy, Hollande* and Macron), capital and synergies from the media business to gain profitable contracts in many African countries
I didn’t build my empire from one franc by being a passive investor, it’s not in my genes, I am an activist. – Vincent Bolloré at the Havas board meeting.
*Although Sarkozy is one of Vincent’s personal friends, the documentary shows an example where a Hollande visit to Africa allegedly helped Bolloré win a bid for a Cameroon port concession.