How Rodolphe Saadé conquered “La Provence”


Rodolphe Saadé, CEO of CMA CGM, in Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône), January 12, 2022.

Friday September 30, the commercial court of Bobigny (Seine-Saint-Denis) must ratify the purchase by the shipowner CMA CGM of the 89% of the shares of the newspaper Provence owned by the Bernard Tapie group. An inescapable conclusion since the surprise announcement, on August 30, 2022, of an agreement between the shipping giant and the telecom magnate Xavier Niel (individual shareholder of the group The world), another candidate for the takeover of the Marseille daily.

This epilogue, finalized during Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Algeria, to which the two billionaires were invited, crowns the strategy and personal investment, in this case, of Rodolphe Saadé, 52, CEO of the shipowner, to whom the ‘we now lend the ambition to invest in M6, which its services describe as a “rumour”.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers Rodolphe Saadé on the verge of winning “La Provence” against Xavier Niel

“There is a mouse hole. » When he mobilizes his teams in October 2021, Rodolphe Saadé knows what a narrow path he is on. The road to redemption Provence seems obstructed, but the one who is becoming the third richest Frenchman – 37.6 billion euros, according to the magazine Forbes – sees a passage there.

Right of first refusal

Bernard Tapie died on the 3rd of the month. Marseille offered him a grandiose funeral, with smoke bombs and songs of supporters. A few years earlier, the former president of OM had, he thinks, locked the future of the newspaper and its 850 employees – if we count the workforce of Corse-Morning. In the mind of the businessman, the future boss will be Xavier Niel. The founder of Free has, since 2019, 11% of the capital of the newspaper. The articles of association give him a right of first refusal on any sale of shares. But also a right of approval which obliges the board of directors to unanimously validate the entry of a new investor.

Read also Death of Bernard Tapie, a man of a thousand lives

However, via its subsidiary L’Avenir Développement, held by its holding company NJJ, Xavier Niel controls two of the five seats on this council. And the vote of Stéphane Tapie, also administrator, seems acquired to him. The son of Bernard Tapie publicly claims to have ” given [sa] word to his father that his will will be respected”. Niel, already owner of Nice morningwith whom he is preparing synergies, playing on velvet and announcing, from October 21, 2021, the “rapid recovery” of the Marseille group.

In their permanence with peeling walls, the employees of “La Provence” are flabbergasted to welcome the elegant and reserved Rodolphe Saadé in person

But, as often in the Tapie saga, the circumstances are tortuous. And it was in these circumstances that Rodolphe Saadé saw his chance. The Bernard Tapie (GBT) group has been in compulsory liquidation since April 2020 and the cancellation of the arbitration in the Crédit Lyonnais case. The state is watching the amount that will be put on the table. He wants to recover as much money as possible from the 438 million euros owed by GBT to its creditors. However, at the end of 2021, maritime transport prices are exploding and Rodolphe Saadé already knows that the profits of CMA CGM will exceed 15 billion euros annually – they will officially reach 16.6 billion. What to be ambitious.

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