If you're one of Europe's old-line dynasts, the last person you would want as an investor in your company is probably France's Vincent Bollore. But if you're an outside shareholder, you have to love Bollore's uncanny ability to drive up the stock price and make management more accountable.
Last year, the 49-year-old Bollore took aim at Michel David-Weill, the legendary chairman of the Lazard Freres & Co. investment banking group. Bollore had the audacity--and the shrewdness--to build up a huge stake in a thinly traded holding company at the top of the Lazard empire.
Bollore was bought out last year at a $260 million profit. Now, the unflappable Breton has put $130 million into Milan's Mediobanca and taken a stake in a Peugeot family company that controls France's second-largest car group.
Bollore says he spends most of his time managing his $5 billion transportation and engineering group. "From time to time the group has a little spare cash we can put to use in the stock market," he says. That's one way of describing some of Europe's most spectacularly profitable corporate raids.