French media scion resigns after embezzlement charge

French media scion resigns after embezzlement charge

Arnaud Lagardere plans to appeal a ban on holding management positions
Arnaud Lagardere plans to appeal a ban on holding management positions. Photo: JULIEN DE ROSA / AFP/File
Source: AFP

French media baron Arnaud Lagardere resigned Tuesday as chief executive of the sprawling group of the same name after being charged with misuse of corporate funds.

Lagardere, who sold the firm built by his father to media giant Vivendi in November, plans to appeal a temporary ban on holding management positions resulting from the charges, his company said.

The firm operates the profitable Relay chain of airport and train station stores, airport duty-free shops, major performance venues, as well as media including radio station Europe 1 and Sunday paper the Journal du dimanche and France's top book publisher Hachette.

Now 63, Arnaud Lagardere inherited his father Jean-Luc's former business empire on his death in 2003.

He was charged on Monday after a day of questioning by specialist financial investigators.

A source familiar with the case said the charges originated in part from a complaint by activist investor Amber Capital, as well as market watchdogs.

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Lagardere is suspected of "financing his lifestyle and his personal spending from the funds" of two of his companies, the source added.

The firm said the charges "largely relate to companies belonging personally" to Arnaud Lagardere, rather than those that are part of the publicly-traded Lagardere SA group.

He was however charged with "vote-buying, abuse of power and spreading false or misleading information" in 2018-19, the group acknowledged, saying the former CEO "strongly contests" the accusations.

The business built by the elder Lagardere by merging aerospace firm Matra and publisher Hachette has gradually eroded under his son's stewardship.

He sold off the EADS aerospace arm as well as several media houses within a decade as debts grew.

And in 2021 Arnaud Lagardere had to give up a corporate structure that had allowed him and his father to control the company with a stake of less than 10 percent, opening the empire up to further dismemberment.

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The November sale to Vivendi -- controlled by the family of billionaire Vincent Bollore -- sealed the end of Lagardere as an independent firm.

"We are now part of the Vivendi family. On a personal note, we're entering the Bollore family, which I find even more flattering," Arnaud Lagardere told the group's annual general meeting last week.

The younger Lagardere has long had a close personal connection to Vincent Bollore and lives in the same gated community in the western Paris neighbourhood of Auteuil.

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Source: AFP

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