Last week, the difficult discussions about the fate of La Provence and Nice Matin, the southern newspapers of Group Hersant, went on and on. An agreement is due on December 24 but the outcome is far from obvious.
Philippe Hersant and his chief excutive, Dominique Bernard favour a deal with the sulfurous businessman Bernard Tapie. They would contribute a total of 50 millions euros, about 25% of the debt towards the 17 banks who loaned 225 millions to Hersant six years ago and would lose 175 millions.
The French President office, at Elysée is forcefully opposed to the Tapie solution, for political and economic reasons. They strongly suspect that the maverick businessman is after the City Hall of Marseille and willing to sell Nice Matin and France Antilles to just anybody. So Emmanuel Macron deputy general secretary of Elysée and an expert in newspapers industry has convinced BNP, the main banking creditor, to loan 50 millions to Rossel. This Belgian press group who owns already Voix du Nord and is buying the Eastern dailies of Hersant, seems ready to move South, an unchartered territory for them, with the French government support.
Philippe Hersant is totally against the Rossel deal. The Belgians are also walking on shaky ground. Their financial situation is far from good. They have to cut the staff of their Brussels daily, Le Soir to make for the fall of advertising income. Its anybody's guess how they would pay back BNP.
Who is going to win? Bernard Tapie or Elysée through Rossel and what will be the destiny of the ailing newspapers? Some answer next Monday.