Xavier Niel, founder of Free (Iliad group) and co-owner of the newspaper Le Monde, announced Friday in a statement to have taken control of 34% of Nice-Matin by buying 51% of Avenir Developpement, the holding of the Belgian group Nethys which had this share of the regional daily since 2016.
In its statement, NJJ, Xavier Niel's personal holding, said it had agreed with Nethys to acquire "in a short period of time" the remaining capital of Avenir Développement. The other 66% of Nice Matin are held by the newspaper's employees via a SCIC, a cooperative in which they had invested their 13th month in 2014.
Mr. Niel formalized his takeover of Avenir Développement on the same day as the general meeting of the approximately 450 employee shareholders of Nice-Matin. At the time of this GA, they had to look at the two offers on the table for this 34% held by Avenir Développement: that of the boss of Free and that of Iskandar Safa, the Franco-Lebanese magnate owner of Valeurs Actuelles.
The reaction of employees to this announcement was not yet known Friday afternoon. "At best, (the offer of Mr. Niel) is a draft project: they are many elements of language, but no figures," said Romain Maksymowycz, SNJ delegate, with AFP, early July .
Under the shareholders' agreement uniting Avenir Développement and SCIC Nice-Matin, Avenir Développement will have to acquire the remaining 66% of the capital of the newspaper on February 1, 2020, for a price of around € 925,000, which should offer total control of the daily to Xavier Niel, specifies a letter of NJJ signed of the businessman sent Thursday.
In this letter, sent to the cooperators of SCIC, to Jean-François Roubaud, the chairman of the supervisory board of the Nice Matin group, and to Jean-Marc Pastorino, its chairman of the executive board, Mr Niel said he was "open to renegotiation terms of this redemption, including a higher price ".
In this same letter, Xavier Niel affirms his desire to "perpetuate the economic model of Nice Matin and preserve its editorial independence". On this last point, the boss of Free ensures that the editorial teams and their management will be kept, with the bonus of creating a company of editors.
Mr. Niel explains that he is taking these commitments in the framework of a plan called "Projet 75", referring to the 75th anniversary, in September, of the recovery of the collaborationist newspaper "Le Petit Niçois" by the men of the Combat group. NJJ undertakes to maintain the control of the Nice-Matin group for a minimum period of five years.
With this takeover of Avenir Développement, Mr. Niel also has 11% of the capital of the group La Provence, whose majority shareholder is Bernard Tapie.
© 2019 AFP