Sarkozy weighs in on Le Monde rescue bid

11th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

President Nicolas Sarkozy has told the publisher of France's ailing Le Monde that he opposes a bid by three left-wing investors to shore up the daily, a member of the editorial staff said Friday.

Sarkozy met with publisher Eric Fottorino this week to discuss the newspaper's plans to sell a stake to investors able to pay off its 100-million-euro (120-million-dollar) debt.

"I can confirm that we met and we talked," Fottorino told AFP.

A member of the editorial staff said Fottorino had told journalists that Sarkozy did not look favorably upon the bid by investors Pierre Berge, the former partner of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, Matthieu Pigasse and Xavier Niel.

The Paris newspaper Liberation reported that Sarkozy had told the publisher that there would be no state-backed loans for upgrading Le Monde's printing plant if the Berge-Pigasse-Niel bid was accepted.

Investors have until Friday to put in their definitive bids for the newspaper, founded in 1944 by Hubert Beuve-Mery after the end of the German occupation of Paris.

Two potential bidders pulled out earlier this week: Italian publisher L'Espresso and Ringier, the publisher of Switzerland's Le Temps.

That left Spain's Prisa, which publishes El Pais newspaper, France's Nouvel Observateur group and the trio of investors in the running.

The group formed by Berge also includes Pigasse, an investment banker who last year bought the trendy culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles, and Niel, a telecoms billionaire.

They recently wrote an open letter saying if their bid is successful, "we plan to serve Le Monde and not to use it to serve us."

Falling advertising revenues, dwindling circulation, the challenge of the Internet and the economic downturn have left Le Monde, like many of the world's newspapers, struggling to survive.

Today around 280 journalists work for the daily, which has a circulation of about 290,000.

© 2010 AFP

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