‘Le Monde’ Accepts Investor Group Offer

By: E&P Staff

Struggling French national daily Le Monde has accepted an offer opposed by the country’s president.

The investors include Internet billionaire and former sex-chat line owner Xavier Niel, Lazard Ltd. banker and music magazine owner Matthieu Pigasse, and Yves Saint Laurent Group partner Pierre Berge, who supported Nicolas Sarkozy’s Socialist opponent for the presidency three years ago. The group will pay $135 million (more than half toward debt payment) for the afternoon daily, which launched as World War II ended.

An e-mail statement by the newspaper’s board, reported this morning by Bloomberg BusinessWeek, said the investors “will enter into three months of exclusive negotiations in exchange for a 10 million-euro fee.” Employees must approve the investors’ plan.

The Le Monde staff rejected a joint bid from France Telecom SA, Nouvel Observateur magazine and Spanish media firm Prisa. It also said it wouldn’t consider a late offer from Russian billionaire Gleb Fetisov.

Le Monde‘s circulation reportedly fell about 4% last year, while other Paris-based dailies newspapers saw declines ranging from 1.76% at Le Figaro to 9.5% at Liberation.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek noted that Le Monde eliminated130 positions two years ago as part of $18.3 million in annual cost-cutting, and that it was able to borrow $30.5 million euros on the condition that it recapitalize.

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