Paris-Normandy: justice will decide on Monday between the Belgian offers

Justice will decide on Monday. Two Belgian groups presented him this Tuesday behind closed doors with competing offers to buy back the struggling daily: one has the support of employees, the other the financial support of the current owner of the title. Both plan to cut around 60 positions.

Waiting for, “Unanimous opinion” in favor of Rossel of the court administrators, liquidator, judge-commissioner and public prosecutor, the employee lawyer Jessy Levy told AFP at the end of a hearing of more than five hours. Owner of the voice of the North, Rossel “Offers more money. We have equity of 240 million euros while those of IPM are five to six million euros. We do not have the same size of company, so in terms of sustainability, I think we provide more guarantees ”, assured Bernard Marchant his director general questioned by AFP at the exit of the commercial court of Rouen while 70 to 80 employees of the newspaper showed their support for his project in front of the building.

Already a candidate for the acquisition of Paris-Normandy in 2017, Rossel contributed three million euros to the capital against two million offered by NP Holding, owned 51% by another Belgian group, IPM, and 49% by Fininco holding of Jean-Louis Louvel, owner of Paris-Normandy at 90%. The entrepreneur, candidate supported by LREM in the first round of municipal elections in Rouen, gave up on the second round. The two groups would cut around sixty jobs, out of the 240 permanent contracts that the newspaper and its advertising agency have, a prospect “Painful” for employees who have undergone three procedures in eight years according to the SNJ. Rossel would take over 85 of the 96 journalists, NP holding 84. Rossel promises to invest 2.8 million euros over three years, NP Holding 1.5 million over two years.

“The most important element, we are actors of PQR, IPM is not present in France or in the regional press”, added Benard Marchant. Rossel would keep the newspaper’s 10 agencies, when NP would remove seven. For his part, François Le Hodey, CEO of IPM, highlighted to the press the strength of his titles in the digital world and his desire to promote Paris-Normandy, who would be his “First investment in France in the field of the press”, to “Basis for developments in France”.

“Unscrupulous dismissal” or “scapegoat”

“Louvel, unscrupulous dismissal!”, could one read on a leaflet pasted by a CGT trade unionist on the door of the court. The employees accuse Jean-Louis Louvel, both of having taken advantage of the health crisis to liquidate the newspaper and cancel its debt (of 7 million euros), and of having taken over, just before the liquidation, part of the cash advance made by his company Fininco and rents, or nearly 400,000 euros according to the CGT.

“The real problem is not there at all”, estimated the CEO of IPM François Le Hodey, questioned by journalists at the exit of the court, estimating that Jean-Louis Louvel was a “scapegoat” which had “lost” money in this file. “Anyone looking at the figures can immediately understand that with the drop in turnover, the company was bankrupt”, he added.

For Bernard Marchant, the problem of Paris-Normandy was less his debt than “Its capacity to invest” in the digital age. Long in debt, the daily was liquidated on April 21, which canceled its debt of 7 million euros. According to management, the newspaper was in the process of reorganization at the time but was “Tackled to the ground” by the health crisis. The journal has 22,500 print subscribers and 1,500 web subscribers. In 2019, it circulated around 41,280 copies, or 6.9% less than in 2018, according to the Acpm, a press audience certification body. A drop above the average for the regional press. Main backer of Rouen Normandie Rugby, Jean-Louis Louvel bought Paris-Normandie in 2017 from journalist Xavier Ellie, to whom the Hersant group had sold it in 2012.

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