Its supervisory board voted to select a consortium â€“ Pierre BergÃ©, an arts patron and partner of the late fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, banker Matthieu Pigasse, and internet tycoon Xavier Niel, described by some newspapers as a â€œporn billionaireâ€ â€“ to begin talks to take financial control, though they have promised that the journalists will have editorial freedom.
In return, Le Monde is promised an injection of â‚¬100m to repay debts and invest in a future which will be dominated by the growth of news and comment over the internet â€“ the trio also say they want to integrate the paper with its website.
Le Monde is staring oblivion in the face, and this post by Frederic Filloux is pretty gimlet-eyed in its analysis:
What does Le Monde need now? Four things (at least).
A project. Both editorial and industrial. Editorially speaking, Le Monde needs to turn up its competitive metabolism, to muscle sections such as the business coverage, and to better integrate its website in a strategically planned approach of the news.
A restructuring. Assets such as the magazine Telerama have to be sold (as long as there is a buyer). The printing plant will have to be shut down and the print load transferred to Le Figaro which has built a modern facility that can handle Le Monde print run.
A decisive human resources initiative. Like in every newsroom, there are huge imbalances in the staff workloads, which creates frustration and bitterness. On average, a journalist at Le Monde works 15% to 20% less than its counterpart at the Guardian or El Pais. This has to be adjusted through a fair (but delicate) labor negotiation. Actually, the Prisa group wanted to address this issue rather bluntly.
A long term approach. In any case, Le Mondeâ€™s renovation will take years. On this aspect, Claude Perdrielâ€™s bid is not particularly appealing; at 84, he is not likely to stay at the top for long, and after him lies an uncertain future â€” especially when the restructuring will require additional funding. The Niel-BergÃ©-PigasseÂ team claims to have more of a long term approach (and deeper pockets). As long as it is able to refrain from using Le Monde to push political agendas or careers, as long as the newsroom can be protected against conflicts of interest â€“ and thatâ€™s two big ifs â€“ their bid could bring a more stable future for Le Monde.