NOTJJ Presse, Xavier Niel’s personal holding company, announced on Saturday September 23 that it had taken over, after unanimous agreement from the Pôle d’Independence, the shares held by Daniel Kretinsky in the capital of the Le Monde Group. He will bring them, along with those he already holds, to the Press Independence Fund. This endowment fund, within which the shares will now be non-transferable, will thus become the largest shareholder of our group.
At the same time, Matthieu Pige announced that the shares he held in the capital of our group would also be transferred to the Press Independence Fund. At the end of these operations, the two main shareholders will therefore be the Press Independence Fund (whose board of directors is chaired by Alain Frachon, former editorial director of World) and the Independence Center, mainly made up of the companies of journalists and staff of the different titles of our group (The world, Telerama, International mail, The life).
These announcements mark two important stages for the governance of the group and for safeguarding the independence of its editorial staff. The withdrawal of Daniel Kretinsky from our capital closes a sequence opened in 2018, with his entry into the capital of the company Le Nouveau Monde. Unsolicited, this arrival sparked an immediate and exceptional mobilization of our collective and our readership in the face of the threats it could represent for the balance of our capital and the identity of our titles. This mobilization notably resulted in the creation of a statutory approval right for the sole benefit of the Independence Center, which takes the form of a vote prior to any significant change in our capital.
Since this date, neither Daniel Kretinsky nor his teams have been involved in the definition or implementation of our strategy. The businessman had not requested approval from the pole either. Its withdrawal definitively clarifies the situation within our capital.
Essential during this period, the mobilization of the group’s teams, and that of our readers, also led the Independence Center, the management board and Xavier Niel to reflect on the developments to be implemented to further protect our editorial freedom. It was these reflections that led to the creation of the Press Independence Fund.
Since 2018, our group will have continued its development, in complete independence, with an acceleration of the transformation of its economic model and a series of editorial developments which have enabled the audiences of each of our titles to grow, like the portfolio digital subscribers of Worldwhich increased from 173,000 in 2018 to 503,000 in September 2023.
In addition, the announcement of the transfer of Matthieu Pige’s shares will also strengthen the weight of the Press Independence Fund. This initiative, which we welcome, is the culmination of a significant personal investment by Matthieu Pige alongside us to support and accelerate the transformation of our economic model.
Instigator of the project carried out with Pierre Bergé and Xavier Niel, he enabled the rescue of our group and the 2010 recapitalization by the company Le Monde libre. Since that date, Matthieu Pige has been a member of our supervisory board. At each stage of our development, from the implementation of our ethics charter to the signing of the agreement conferring a right of approval to the Pôle d’Independence, Matthieu Pige has made an important contribution to the growth of our band. We thank him warmly, on behalf of our collective.
At the end of these movements, and at the end of the dispute with the heir of Pierre Bergé, the capital of our group should be distributed between the Fund for the Independence of the Press, an endowment fund created to support freedom and quality of information in our democracy, which could hold 72.5%, and the Pole of Independence (25.4%). At a time when several media outlets are seeing their economic stability threatened, their know-how challenged or their identity attacked, the evolution of the Le Monde Group demonstrates that the entry into the capital of private shareholders can also lead to a strengthening of rights and editorial freedoms, thanks to the vigilance of its staff companies and the support of its readers.
In contrast to the worrying recent deteriorations observed elsewhere, several tools and protection mechanisms have been put in place in recent years, with the support of our shareholders: signing of a charter of ethics and professional conduct; creation of an ethics committee gradually extended to all entities of the group; right of approval to prevent any hostile development of our capital; creation, in each of our titles, of a right of editorial approval prior to any departure of the editorial director, or of the director of Worlda recent acquisition which completes a system which already provided for this same right of approval at the time of the appointment of editorial managers.
Equipped with these protections, our group is today better equipped, and more stable, to carry out its mission of informing. The corollary of this statutory independence is our economic autonomy. A beneficiary for seven years, thanks to the excellent results of its magazines, our group has been able to regularly reinvest its earnings in a series of developments which are now bearing fruit.
Strengthening the editorial staff with more than 540 journalists World compared to 310 in 2010; creation of a magazine supplement for The worldwhose reputation and success have not eroded after twelve years of existence; launch of the La Matinale du Monde application ; creation of podcasts, editions on social networks and in particular YouTube, Snapchat and TikTok in order to strengthen our links with younger audiences; opening of correspondent positions abroad and launch of “World Africa”, to further affirm our interest in international issues; continued strengthening of our capacity to cover the causes and consequences of the major climate crisis affecting our world; and, most recently, launch of a site and an application in English in order to better disseminate our journalism beyond borders: to The worldthese innovations, as much as the recent advances in our guarantees of independence, are the latest milestones in a very long history begun in 1944 by our founder, Hubert Beuve-Méry.
This story remains consistent with the values that he then intended to defend by forging this weapon that was both fragile and powerful: an independent newspaper. We will celebrate its 80th anniversary, together, in 2024, with the conviction that this long journey owes as much to the visceral attachment of each member of our house to the freedom to inform as to faithful support, and increasingly and more broadly, from our readers.