“We authorize the transfer for the benefit of the company CMA CGM (…) of 89% of the shares making up the capital of the company La Provence” (which were held by the Bernard Tapie group in compulsory liquidation, Ed), writes the court of commerce in its order, consulted by AFP.
Almost a year after the death of the emblematic businessman and then a long battle in the courts, CMA CGM and the group of Xavier Niel having long torn for control of the flagship of the press in the south of the France, one of the world’s giants in maritime transport, takes control of a group which has 850 employees and publishes the daily newspapers La Provence and Corse Matin.
By offering these newspapers, CMA CGM, based in Marseille, is also making a remarkable entry into the world of media. The shipowner’s appetite does not stop there since Rodolphe Saadé is also in the running to take over the M6 channel, in a team led by Stéphane Courbit (FL Entertainment).
Contacted by AFP, the CMA CGM group did not wish to react for the moment.
“I am delighted with this decision which comes to close several months of work and intense mobilization of all the parties”, welcomed in a press release the judicial liquidator of the group Bernard Tapie, Marc Sénéchal.
“This is excellent news for the CSEs and unions that I represent and who since the start of the procedure have been fighting for the CMA’s offer to be chosen”, also reacted to AFP their lawyer Catherine Szwarc.
– “A lot of expectations” –
Relief also from the unions: “We have a lot of hope and a lot of expectations. This period of uncertainty has put the company in great difficulty, so we are delighted with the arrival of this new shareholder after 10 years of “inertia under the Tapie era”, reacted to AFP Sophie Manelli, SNJ delegate from Provence.
“We are now awaiting the appointment of a new editorial director” continues the trade unionist, warning against a reproduction of “mistakes of the past with high-sounding names”. “We must give precedence to competence and knowledge of the regional daily press. We must move quickly to breathe new life,” she added.
“This will allow the editorial staff to turn a somewhat complicated page. Each journalist will be able to position themselves and if they wish to assert their right to the assignment clause (leaving the newspaper while benefiting from severance pay),” said at AFP the editorial director, Guilhem Ricavy.
“There is a strong expectation from the editorial staff on guarantees of independence and all eyes are on who will be the next CEO”, he adds, also referring to the question of the means which will be devoted to the newspaper which in particular needs new premises after the sale of its headquarters.
The decision of the commercial court is the epilogue of a legal tussle that has pitted two billionaires against each other for months: Rodolphe Saadé, CEO of CMA CGM, to the boss of Free, Xavier Niel, who already owns shares in several media. (Nice-Matin, Le Monde…).
It had been expected since the two groups had announced at the end of August that they had signed “an agreement for the repurchase by CMA CGM of all the shares (11%) held by NJJ, Xavier Niel’s holding company, in the capital of Provence.
The agreement between the two economic behemoths also provides for the creation of a joint venture to “develop a new printing press in the Var”.
The latter “is intended by the end of 2024 to ensure the printing of all” of the titles of the La Provence groups, excluding Corse-Presse, and the regional daily Nice-Matin, property of Xavier Niel, who is also a shareholder of the World individually, had specified the interested parties in a joint press release.
At the end of a second call for tenders launched in February, only the project to take over CMA CGM had been retained by the judicial co-liquidators, because “the best bid”, at 81 million euros against 20 million for that by Xavier Niel. This offer had also been validated by the six social and economic committees (CSE) of the company.