NETHERLANDS: Gucci/LVMH Square Up For Another Fight
Legal papers continue to fly back and forth as Gucci demanded yesterday that a Dutch court should compel LVMH to sell off its 20 per cent stake in Gucci.The luxury goods giants have been embroiled in a catfight ever since LVMH's Gucci takeover bid was frustrated last year.Gucci CEO Domenico de Sole says that LVMH, a "significant shareholder" in the company, is abusing its position and is exercising an anti-competitive influence over Gucci's business.LVMH's Bernard Arnault derided the latest lawsuit in a statement issued shortly after Gucci's announcement: "This step demonstrates the desperation of Gucci's management. It is absurd for Gucci to assert that, with 20.6 per cent of Gucci's shares and without having nominated a single member of Gucci's supervisory board, LVMH is exercising any influence whatsoever over Gucci. Indeed, Mr de Sole himself has publicly boasted that LVMH had become a minority shareholder with no active role or power in the company."If Gucci nevertheless wants minority shareholders to sell their shares, then Gucci should require PPR to launch a public offer at a fair price. These are the only circumstances under which LVMH could agree to sell its shares."The Amsterdam Enterprise court in May 1999 refused to cancel Gucci's deal with Arnault's arch-rival, tycoon François Pinault of PPR, who got a 42 per cent stake in new Gucci shares for about $3bn. Arnault had protested that the PPR arrangement diluted LVMH's 34 per cent Gucci stake to about 21 per cent. The deal also denied Arnault representation on Gucci's board. PPR secured the right to nominate four of the nine board members.In a separate case, the Dutch supreme court annulled a previous ruling allowing Gucci to throw off an LVMH takeover. But LVMH has since said that it would refile the case, which could run and run analysts said.
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