France7 November 2007
Les Echos to reappear tomorrow after two-day strike
After striking for two days, journalists employed by Les Echos decided today to resume production of the newspaper. Vincent de Féligonde, the president of the Association of Journalists, said part of tomorrow’s front page would be devoted to a factual analysis of the situation that led to the strike and the various positions on the newspaper’s proposed sale. Les Echos’ employees are calling for better protection.
6 november 2007
Shared concern over business daily’s purchase by luxury goods group
Reporters Without Borders shares the concerns of journalists employed by France’s biggest-circulation business daily Les Echos who are opposing its sale by the British media group Pearson to French luxury goods group LVMH. The newspaper was not available in news stands today because staff suspended work in protest against the sale, announced yesterday.
“We support Les Echos’ journalists, who fear a loss of editorial independence as a result of LVMH’s activities, especially in the luxury goods industry,” the press freedom organisation said. “The risks of a conflict of interests are real and the defence of this leading French newspaper’s editorial freedom is more necessary than ever.”
At a meeting today, the staff of Les Echos agreed by 241 votes to 96 (with 7 blank votes) to continue to suspend production of the newspaper. This resolution renewed the decision taken by journalists immediately after the sale’s announcement yesterday, which - ironically - was European Press Freedom Day.
President Nicolas Sarkozy’s culture and broadcasting adviser, Georges-Marc Benamou, has acknowledged that there is a danger of a conflict of interests.
Pearson, which also owns the Financial Times, began exclusive negotiations with LVMH on 21 June. It finally announced yesterday that an agreement had been signed for the purchase of Les Echos by LVMH for 240 million euros. The French group is headed by the country’s richest man, Bernard Arnault.
The deal means that LVMH will have to sell Les Echos’ leading competitor, La Tribune. Four companies are interested in buying it, but the workers’ council at La Tribune voiced scepticism last night about the “quality” of the company that would probably be chosen.
Les Echos’ workers’ council and trade unions issued a joint press release today announcing their intention to challenge the sale on the grounds that it was a clear violation of France’s antitrust laws. They said they had written to economy and finance minister Christine Lagarde to alert her to the situation.
A rival bid for Les Echos by French financial group Fimalac, the owner of the credit-rating agency Fitch, for 245 million euros is supported by the newspaper’s staff. They say Pearson always refused to examine this offer on the grounds that it had signed an agreement to negotiate exclusively with LVMH until 26 November
A petition in support of Les Echos’ journalists is available on the newspaper’s website, www.lesechos.fr.