Sartre's partner to be forced from 'Liberation'

13th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 13, 2006 (AFP) - Serge July, historic founder of the left-wing French newspaper Libération, was poised to resign Tuesday after a row with the principal share-holder Edouard de Rothschild over the paper's mounting losses.

PARIS, June 13, 2006 (AFP) - Serge July, historic founder of the left-wing French newspaper Libération, was poised to resign Tuesday after a row with the principal share-holder Edouard de Rothschild over the paper's mounting losses.

July told AFP that Rothschild had asked him to step down as chairman of the newspaper. "If my departure can help the refinancing of the newspaper, I will not be an obstacle," he said.

The resignation of managing director Louis Dreyfus has also been requested, July said.

A union representative said that July told an editorial meeting that he was resigning "under duress". "Staff are very worried. This is going to have serious consequences," said François Wenz-Dumas.

The clash followed reports that the newspaper has entered a new financial crisis, despite a restructuring plan that led to more than 50 job cuts earlier this year.

Rothschild, who invested EUR 20 million in Libération in January 2005, is furious at the paper's continuing losses and at a meeting last week demanded July's resignation as a condition for new finance, several French newspapers reported Tuesday.

Les Echos financial daily reported that Libération's trading figures for the last three months have been particularly bad, making imperative a new cash injection of EUR 10 to 15 million.

A 63-year-old former Maoist, July set up Libération with philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973, aiming to give voice to the counter-culture of the post-May 1968 generation.

Originally the newspaper was supposed to be free from the pressures of advertising and investor finance, but it has gradually had to accommodate itself to a capitalist economy.

Rothschild's investment last year gave him 39 percent of the newspaper, with staff holding 18.5 percent and an association of "Friends of Libération" 10 percent.

The restructuring plan, which aimed to save EUR 4.3 million in 2006, sparked a four-day strike in November after which the management offered redundancy packages to 56 out of 334 employees.

Since then the newspaper has revamped its Internet site and launched a week-end supplement, but circulation has failed to pick up.

The last official figures show that Libération sold just under 137,000 copies in France in 2005, down from 163,000 in 2001 and 182,000 in 1990.

Several national French newspapers have recently fallen into financial difficulties as a result of historically low readership figures as well as growing competition from the Internet and free-sheets.

The once best-selling France-Soir was off the news stands for two months up till last week after it came close to bankruptcy, and the conservative Le Figaro was taken over in 2004 by the aircraft manufacturer Dassault.

Le Monde and its sister publications last week announced losses for 2005 of EUR 28 million.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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