Corse-Matin, between turmoil and hope

With the death of Bernard Tapie and the departure of the CM Holding consortium, the newspaper became the exclusive property of the La Provence group. It is for this same group that two giants of industry are currently waging a merciless war. On the one hand Xavier Niel, founder of Free and multiple media owner, and on the other Rodolphe Saadé, boss of CMA-CGM, one of the largest shipping carriers in the world. As a backdrop for the employees, the fear of a general restructuring and the hope of keeping their jobs …

Brief history

To understand all the consequences of the death of the former boss of OM on the future of the Corsican newspaper, it is first of all necessary to take an interest in the Provence group . Bernard Tapie owned 89% until April 30, 2020, when the Bobigny court placed his companies in compulsory liquidation. The remaining 11% belong to Xavier Niel, who also has a right of first refusal on the other shares and the ability to refuse a new entrant. In an article from Le Mondedated October 4, we learned that the latter would have guaranteed that he would buy back all the shares the day Bernard Tapie would disappear. Procedures are still ongoing, but the links between the two men, as well as the interest of Xavier Niel, suggest to many observers that the case was heard well in advance.

De gauche à droite, Rodolphe Saadé, Bernard Tapie et Xavier Niel

The only problem: the possibility for Niel to oppose a candidate for the takeover of the newspaper is contested by the liquidator of the group Bernard Tapie (GBT). The summary hearing before the Marseille Commercial Court will take place on December 21. Until then, the cards are reshuffled and, after several withdrawals, a new serious competitor has entered the arena: Rodolphe Saadé, CEO of CMA-CGM. This freight giant, which now has more than 110,000 employees around the world, is deeply rooted in the city of Marseille. Its head office – the CMA-CGM tower, the highest in Marseille – is located on Boulevard Jacques Saadé, named in honor of the father of the current CEO.

Corse-Presse exclusive property of the Provence group

The daily Marseille initially had 51% of Corse-Matin , who is from the 1 st December 2014 more attached to Nice-Matin in name. The remaining 49% belonged to the CM Holding consortium, which had announced that it wanted to get rid of it since the summer. This takeover was finally confirmed by Jean-Christophe Serfati, CEO of Corse-presse , on November 30.

CMA-CGM’s offer  

On November 26, Rodolphe Saadé met the employees of La Provence in their Marseille premises. After these exchanges, in a letter to employees dated November 30, the businessman reaffirmed his « attachment to Provence and Corse Matin », promising a substantial investment and the return to balance of the two titles here. 2026. In the event of a takeover, the CEO also assured that there will be no redundancy plan, and that he would maintain the printing plant of La Provence in Marseille , as well as the activities of Corse-Matinon the island. He would also like to increase broadcasting revenues by « fully exploiting digital opportunities ». Finally, if his offer were accepted, Rodolphe Saadé would undertake to put in place « strict rules » to guarantee the independence of the editorial staff. Note that CMA-CGM, the main private sector employer in Marseille, has benefited greatly from the global upturn in trade with a net profit soaring to 5.6 billion dollars in the third quarter of this year.

Xavier Niel’s strategy

In 2019, when Niel bought 11% of La Provence, everyone wondered: what interest could the billionaire, co-shareholder of Le Monde, have in the Marseille city? It is only later that his strategy is revealed little by little. In a few months, he successively bought Nice-MatinFrance-Antilles and Paris Turf. At the same time, his interest was in La Marseillaise, a communist newspaper in liquidation, for which he made a joint offer with La Provence, before finally throwing in the towel. He has also invested for years in web media from different political backgrounds, such as Mediapart , but also ElectronLibre or Causeur.

The businessman clearly weaves his web in the media landscape where his influence is growing. At the same time, its objective is also to straighten out the finances of dying press titles, and severely impacted by the health crisis. For this, many transformations should take place, with a clear reorientation towards digital. Following the acquisition of  Nice-Matin last year, a “voluntary” departure plan was proposed, and should concern more than 110 employees, including around thirty journalists, out of the group’s 850 jobs. The health crisis would also have left a hole of several millions euros in the estimated budget of the press company. To save money, the creation of a new printing house in the Var, shared with La Provence is being considered. This center, which would open by 2024, could produce editions for other media. This information has since been confirmed by the management of  Nice-Matin in the columns of the Express.

Corse-Matin in the red

The Corse-Presse group which publishes Corse-Matin currently has nearly 200 employees. In an internal letter to employees dated June 2021, the newspaper’s Intersyndicale pointed to a net deficit of 4 million euros in 2020. In July, it published in its columns a press release titling “200 jobs threatened”. We learned that, despite two plans for « voluntary » departures in three years and aimed at reducing the payroll, the financial situation of the title has continued to deteriorate.

In terms of circulation, according to the ACPM (Alliance for Press and Media Figures), the title has gone from more than 45,000 paid copies in 2005 to 25,000 in 2020, 20% of which in digital, with a deadweight loss of 11% over the current year.

The shadow of France-Antilles

The arrival of Xavier Niel at the helm would undeniably suggest major changes. In France-Antilles, the acquisition of the group, after liquidation, had saved 126 jobs out of 235. The publication had been severely affected. Stopped clean in February 2020, it was able to resume digital in April, before the daily was printed again during the summer. The title, which initially had three paper versions (Martinique, Guadeloupe and Guyana), now has only two. The France-Guyana edition is only available digitally.

The future of jobs in Corsica

No doubt that if colossal means seem to be put in place to create a « super printing » in the Var, that of Lucciana, which produces our PQR (regional daily press), will be scrutinized. More than twenty jobs are directly linked to it. A situation that Gilles Simeoni seems to follow closely. According to our sources, the Chairman of the Executive Council met, during the summer, with Jean-Christophe Serfati, CEO of Corse-Presse and Bernard Tapie’s trustworthy man. Their exchange, very discreet, would have focused on the future of the title, but especially on a « necessary restructuring ». During this meeting would also have been mentioned the future of certain leaders of Corse-Matin including that of Roger Antech, Editorial Director of the newspaper. Contacted by our editorial staff, Gilles Simeoni confirmed having met Serfati, fortuitously, as part of an exchange concerning the future of jobs at Corse-Presse, but assured that the discussion had in no way focused on the leaders of the newspaper. Roger Antech could for his part, according to our latest information, be appointed very soon in Marseille.

In the battle between Niel and Saadé, the latter’s offer clearly seems more attractive, but we still have to wait for the decision of the Marseille Commercial Court. If the latter ruled in favor of Xavier Niel, the judicial liquidator would have no other choice but to hand over the reins of the company to him, without the Saadé family, as powerful as it is, being unable to do anything about it. . The summary hearing will take place on December 21.

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