French newspaper Le Monde is to take its controlling ownership stake out of the hands of editorial staff and sell it to an outside buyer. The paper, which has a centre-left political bent, was created after France was freed from Nazi rule in 1944 and is one of the country's most respected publications.
Among interested buyers are the Nouvel Observateur group, which owns a weekly news magazine; Spain's Prisa, owner of El Pais; Switzerland's Ringier, publisher of Le Temps; and one other foreign company that does not want to be publicly named, according to Le Monde.
A trio of entrepreneurs that includes Yves Saint Laurent's long-time partner Pierre Berge is also in the running.
In a front-page article in the afternoon edition, publisher Eric Fottorino sought to ensure readers that the paper's independence would remain intact regardless of who ends up holding the purse strings. A decision on the new owner is expected at a shareholders' meeting on June 14.
Why such a change, which will mark a historic turning point for Le Monde, whose journalists have been controlling shareholders for nearly 60 years? asked Mr Fottorino.
It is in making money, to reinvest it in the heart of our activity, that Le Monde will guarantee its true independence, he wrote. Enumerating Le Monde's financial burdens, Mr Fottorino cited an acute crisis in the advertising industry.
Since 1951, the paper's editorial staff has had majority control of Le Monde's management. Mr Fottorino wrote that ”regardless of which candidate is chosen, the (editorial staff) will lose this majority control.
He said the staff would demand a guarantee that the new shareholder will not intervene, from near or far, in the contents of our publications, during this period in which the 2012 presidential race is already occupying our thoughts.”
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