NO BOSS in French business can match Vincent Bolloré for swagger and aggression. Variously described by the press in France as a stubborn Breton, a ruthless profiteer and a smiling killer, the 64-year-old corporate raider has acquired interests in media, transport, advertising, telecoms and more, scattered across Europe and Africa. Opinion at home is divided between those who say his methods are too brutal and others who welcome his effect on an often dozy business world.

This week it was the turn of Italian newspapers to rant against the French “pirate” and “mercenary”. On December 13th the news came that France’s Vivendi, a media firm in which Mr Bolloré’s company, Bolloré Group, owns 20% (he effectively controls it) was racing to buy up shares in Mediaset, Italy’s biggest TV-broadcaster. Things moved swiftly. By the next day Vivendi had a 20% stake in Mediaset, up from 3% two days earlier. The Italian firm claims a hostile takeover attempt—the smiling killer’s speciality—is under way.

Mr Bolloré has long aimed at winning a share of Mediaset. Earlier this year, Vivendi had agreed a plan with Mediaset in which…Continue reading