Xavier Niel, the billionaire behind Le Monde’s recent acquisition of Czech energy tycoon Daniel Křetínský’s stake in the newspaper, plans to place more than 40% of the company in a foundation by the end of the year. The move is part of a governance reform aimed at protecting the newspaper’s editorial independence and preventing takeovers. The foundation will ensure that reliance on a wealthy owner does not compromise the publication’s coverage. The issue of media independence is particularly significant in France, where major outlets are owned by billionaire industrialists who control some of the country’s largest companies. This move by Niel and his co-investors is seen as a positive step by Le Monde’s newsroom, which has welcomed Křetínský’s departure and the plan to place more shares in the foundation.
Le Monde, France’s largest national daily newspaper, was founded in 1944 and for many years was largely run by its journalists. However, in 2010, it faced financial difficulties and required financial support. Niel, along with Pierre Bergé (who has since passed away) and Matthieu Pigasse, pledged €110 million to recapitalise the business. They also made promises regarding governance and created a “pole of independence” group, which represented the journalists, staff, and readers of Le Monde. Niel has since transferred his shares to a permanent foundation, ensuring that they no longer belong to him and cannot be sold. He stated that his opinions do not count and that he wants the newsroom to be as independent as possible. Despite initial concerns, the co-investors have shown a commitment to the publication’s independence and have delivered on their promises to strengthen the editorial staff and make the newspaper profitable.
The implementation of a foundation for Le Monde is seen as a positive development for the newspaper’s readers and staff, as it guarantees greater editorial independence and protection against takeovers. The move was driven by Xavier Niel, the billionaire investor who recently acquired the stake of Czech energy tycoon Daniel Křetínský. Concerns had arisen after Křetínský unexpectedly acquired a stake in the publication in 2018, raising questions about the newspaper’s independence. By establishing a foundation, Niel aims to assure readers that the economic transformation of the newspaper is being carried out independently, without compromising its coverage. The move is particularly important in France, where media independence has become a contentious issue due to the ownership of major outlets by billionaire industrialists. The newsroom at Le Monde has welcomed the departure of Křetínský and has expressed support for Niel’s plan to place his stake in the foundation, emphasizing the need for trust and independence in journalism.
Le Monde, founded in 1944, has undergone significant changes since 2010 when it faced financial problems. Niel and his co-investors provided financial support of €110 million and implemented governance reforms to secure its future. These reforms included the creation of a “pole of independence” group, which represented the journalists, staff, and readers of Le Monde. The co-investors also pledged to strengthen the editorial staff and make the newspaper profitable. The recent establishment of a foundation further solidifies their commitment to the independence of the newspaper. Niel has transferred his shares to the foundation, ensuring that they can no longer be sold and that his opinions will not influence the newsroom. The newsroom has not experienced any interference from the co-investors over the past eight years, highlighting their commitment to maintaining the newspaper’s editorial integrity and independence.