In Marseille, “La Provence” begins a delicate transition with CMA CGM, its new shareholder


In front of the offices of

Provence will not live his “Remontada”. The code name imagined by the new management of the Marseille press group for its recovery strategy was ultimately not retained. Exit the footballing metaphor, now make way for “Winning Mistral”, the plan which aims, according to the new general manager, Gabriel d’Harcourt, to give daily “its position as the leading regional media in France”.

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Acquired in October 2022 by the shipowner CMA CGM, after an epic duel with Xavier Niel (individual shareholder of the World), Provence attack a difficult slope. At the end of December, the group, which, without its subsidiary Corse-Morning, has nearly 600 employees, posted an operating deficit of 12 million euros. On the same date, the title was at the 16e place of regional press dailies, with 68,818 copies sold. A drop of 6.2% in one year, while in 2018, the newspaper was still close to 100,000 copies.

Five months after the takeover by the maritime transport giant headed by Rodolphe Saadé, the troops are slow to feel the mistral of renewal. In December 2022, the appointment of David Blanchard as head of the editorial staff, replacing Guilhem Ricavy, who had resigned, constituted a first false start. Even before taking office, the editor-in-chief of the free daily 20 minutes was implicated in an investigation by the news site Marsactu by three former colleagues accusing him of “toxic or inappropriate behavior”. David Blanchard denies the accusations against him, but the newspaper’s management has given up on recruiting him.

Difficult negotiation on salaries

Nearly a month later, it was the mandatory annual wage negotiation that ignited the editorial staff. The new management offers a 2.5% increase, while Rodolphe Saadé had committed to the commercial court for a revaluation “at the height of inflation”.

On January 24, in a vote organized by the unions, 92% of journalists – 145 voters out of 185 registered – demand an increase “compensating for inflation 2022”, or 5.2%. Three days later, about twenty employees even invite themselves into the office of the general manager to make their demands heard. In vain. If the unions are still waiting for the final proposal, its amount “stays at 2.5%”assumes Mr. d’Harcourt. “As it stands, we will not sign”, organizations respond.

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The pill goes all the worse since the CMA CGM has formalized a record profit for France of 23.5 billion euros in 2022. And that the shipowner buys for 53 million euros, a figure revealed by New Publications, Grand Central, the 8,500 square meter building, which will house – mid-2024 – the teams of Provence in the center of Marseilles. “Mr. Saadé has a lot of money, but he does not invest in human capital. He came to get us at a time when he needed us to win against Mr. Niel. Today, the editorial staff feels betrayed », recalls SNJ delegate Sophie Manelli, who nevertheless defended the CMA CGM option.

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