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The last time Bill Ackman had a big idea, Dan Loeb had a great deal of fun (and profit) with it, much if not all of it at Ackman's expense. Still, the two not-friends seemed to patch it up, whatever it was, a few years ago. Coincidentally or not, that also happened to be right around the time that Ackman at last turned his beleaguered fortunes around, beginning the period of history known as The Ackmanaissance, still officially ongoing.

Well, Bill Ackman’s got another big idea. It involves turning a SPAC into a SPARC and buying 10% of a record company and then hopefully also something else. And it seems that Loeb may think as little of this big idea as he did of Ackman’s idea about Herbalife.

Dan Loeb’s Third Point has built a substantial position in Vivendi SE and is examining the French media company’s plan to sell a 10% stake in its Universal Music Group to fellow activist investor Bill Ackman, according to people familiar with the matter.

The New York-based hedge fund has held the position in Vivendi for several months, and has yet to voice an opinion on whether it would support the UMG transaction….

Artisan Partners, which is Vivendi’s 11th-largest holder, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, came out last week against the proposal…. The investment firm also called the plan to distribute UMG shares to Vivendi stockholders tax inefficient, echoing objections from activist investor Bluebell Capital Partners, which has asked France’s financial market regulator to investigate the plan.

Alas, while this certainly has the makings of something as fun and catty as eight years ago, it seems unlikely to happen, as sure a sign as any that the shoes have been removed to opposite feet as a result of the Ackmanaissance.

A person familiar with his fund’s thinking told Breakingviews that it made the investment to gain exposure to fast-growing Universal, rather than mount an anti-[Vivendi controlling shareholder Vincent] Bolloré campaign…. Bolloré won’t lose much sleep…. His near-30% of control of Vivendi’s voting rights gives him the whip hand. Bolloré needs a simple majority. Assuming 70% of shareholders turn up, he could carry the day with the support of fellow investors representing just 5% of the shares. Loeb’s apparent reticence to fight suggests he has gamed this out.

It’s possible that Loeb could push Bolloré to extract better terms from Ackman, rather than ditching the whole plan…. Yet Bolloré is the one pulling the strings, and has little reason to listen to anyone else.

Loeb’s Third Point Has Built Substantial Position in Vivendi [Bloomberg]
Bolloré and Ackman will beat the Vivendi activists [Reuters]

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