Frontline, a majority shareholder of EuropaCorp, is reportedly being questioned for “abuse of power” and “misuse of corporate assets” in business deals, according to French news website BFMTV.
A preliminary investigation was in fact launched months ago following a lawsuit filed by one of EuropaCorp’s minority shareholders and is now being unveiled by the French media outlet.
This preliminary investigation stems from the allegedly excessive valuation of Blue Event (at 6 million Euros) — privately held at 95% by Besson and EuropaCorp’s CEO Christophe Lambert. Indeed, Frontline transferred the lease of La Cite du Cinema studios to the recently-created Blue Event in 2012 (which generated 3.9 million Euros during the 2012-2013 fiscal year). It acquired Blue Event shortly after in 2013.
EuropaCorp said in a statement that the shingle’s representatives had already been questioned about the investigation regarding the valuation of Blue Event months ago and the investigation has not yielded any actions to this day.
According to BFMTV, the deals surrounding Blue Event have enabled Besson and Lambert to raise their stakes in EuropaCorp and control the rights to host private events at La Cite du Cinema. EuropaCorp, on the other hand, says that the right to host events was covered in its agreement with Frontline before signing the lease with state-backed Caisse des Depots (Deposits and Consignments Fund), which owns 75% of La Cite du Cinema and Vinci, owner of the remaining share.
These private events have proved crucial for Frontline since they generate significant resources that serve to pay part of its 6 million Euros annual lease to Caisse des Depots.
Reacting to news reports, EuropaCorp claimed it was extremely surprised to hear about this second preliminary investigation and pointed out that none of the company’s employees had been questioned.
The French Financial Market Authority (AMF) fined EuropaCorp $250,456 only days ago for misleading investors with inaccurate financial information in 2009 and 2010. Reacting to the fine, EuropaCorp pointed out that it only represented 5% of the maximum penalty that AMF can charge. The company also emphasized the “AMF sanction (did) not affect any element of accounting, but only two elements of past financial communication.”
Previously this year, EuropaCorp’s five auditing shingles ankled following a disagreement over the reporting of a $38 million deal with Fox.
The pact with Fox — covering future royalty revenue from “Taken” and “Taken 2,” as well as collateral guarantees for any future royalties generated with Fox — was included in the 2013-2014 fiscal year (that ended on March 31) and significantly boosted the company’s results.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this story stated that EuropaCorp was being preliminarily investigated. A EuropaCorp rep, however, claims its parent company Frontline, owned by Luc Besson, is being questioned instead.