Ketupa.net a media industry resource

Les Echos


This note considers the Les Echos publishing group, successively controlled by the Servan-Schreiber family, Beytout family and Pearson.


It covers -

  • introduction
  • Servan-Schreiber
  • Beytout
  • Express-Expansion
  • studies
  • landmarks

Introduction

Pearson-subsidiary Les Echos traces its origins to 1908 and encompasses a range of specialist newspapers - notably the Paris financial daily Les Échos, a counterpart of the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times - newsletters and book publishing.

As of 2006 titles included -

  • Les Échos
  • Enjeux Les Echos monthly magazine
  • Revue du Praticien bi-monthly
  • Revue du Praticien Médecine Générale weekly
  • Panorama du Médecin bi-weekly
  • La Revue du Praticien Gynécologie et Obstétrique
  • Les Archives des Maladies du Coeur et des Vaiseux
  • La Revue Française du Dommage Corporel

At that time Les Échos was selling around 140,000 copies a day

Servan-Schreiber

Les Echos was founded as the monthly Les Échos de l'Exportation in 1908 and became a daily in the late 1920s.

The paper initially appeared under the auspices of textile traders Robert Schreiber and associate Albert Aronson and became a weekly in 1913. It suspended operation during the 1914-18, before a reorganisation in 1918 which saw Schreiber end the relationship with Aronson and establish a partnership with brother Émile Schreiber (1888-1967) as Schreiber Frères. During the following decade the paper gained recognition as France's dominant daily financial newspaper, with a particular emphasis imports and exports. Circulation rose to 10,000 and it opened foreign offices in London, Berlin, Vienna, Bucharest, Milan, Warsaw and Frankfurt. In 1925 the Schreiber Frères launched Les Échos des Industries d'Art and began publishing in other languages, including a quarterly in English, Spanish, and German and yearlies in Japanese and Portuguese.

Aryanisation of the press under the Vichy government saw the Schreibers close the newspaper and transfer assets to a non-Jewish friend. The younder generation of Schreibers joined the Maquis, adopting the surname Servan. Emile's sons Jean-Jacques and Jean-Louis, later prominent journalists, identified themselves as Servan-Schreiber after 1944. In that year Les Échos resumed publication, initially as a bi-weekly and then as a daily.

In 1953 Emile's son Jean-Jacques (1924-2006) and Françoise Giroud (1916-2003) launched a weekly supplement, L'Express (initially subtitled Les Échos de Samedi). Jean-Jacques had worked for Hubert Beuve-Méry at Le Monde. By late-1955 L'Express was marginally profitable, after imposing substantial cirtculation losses and costs on its parent, and in September 1955 became a daily newspaper. That reflected commercial and personal tensions within the Schreiber/Servan-Schreiber family, with Les Échos endorsing De Gaulle (and reflecting Robert's more conservative stance in publishing) and L'Express boosting Premier Pierre Mendes France. Ironically, Robert's daughter Marie-Claire (1921-2004) married Mendes France in 1971).

Defeat of Mendes France in 1956 saw L'Express return to a weekly format. Robert's son Jean-Claude sought to rejuvenate Les Échos; Emile in contrast sought to reduce costs.

In 1960 Emile's son Jean-Louis (1937- ) became editor of the flagship title, successfully relaunching Les Echos on the model of the Financial Times.

Disagreements within the family - by that time over 12 members occupied executive and editorial positions - resulted in management paralysis, culminating in a court ordering the group to be placed under a provisional directorship in 1963.

L'Express was spun off from Les Echos and was acquired by James Goldsmith in 1977. Jean-Jacques gained attention as an author and politician. Outside France he's perhaps best known for Le défi américain [The American Challenge (New York: Atheneum 1968)], a 1967 expression of gallic exceptionalism, and 1980 follow-up Le défi mondial. Emile Schreiber's 1917 L'exemple américain had urged France to embrace liberalism, mass production and US management styles. Jean-Jacques campaigned actively against de Gaulle's return to power in 1958 and moved to the Parti Radical, which he led from 1971 to 1979. During the 1970s he was president of the Lorraine region and MP for Nancy. He gained attention for what the London Times characterised as a "Scarlet Pimpernel-like rescue" of composer Mikis Theodorakis from the Greek junta in 1970. Giscard d'Estaing appointed him Minister for Reform in Jacque Chirac's first government in 1974; Servan-Schreiber left after 12 days because of his opposition to France's nuclear bomb testing.

Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber together with Jean Boissonnat founded business magazine L'Expansion in 1967 and Psychologies magazine in 1997.

Beytout

Pierre Beytout (d1976), a director of the Roussel pharmaceutical group, and wife Jacqueline Beytout (1918-2006) acquired control of Les Echos in 1963. Jacqueline had taught French literature in Cairo, married a Danish entrepreneur tagged the 'peanut king of Senegal.

The Beytouts agreed to acquire the 50% of Les Echos held by Emile Schreiber's heirs for FFr 3.6 million, subject to removal of Robert's son Jean-Claude Schreiber from the chief executive position for 18 months. They next acquired 16% of Les Echos held by his sister Marie-Geneviève, before gaining full ownership in 1965 through acquisition of the shares of Jean-Claude and sister Marie-France.

Jacqueline Beytout took editorial and commercial control of Les Echos, serving as chair, managing director and editor-in-chief of the flagship from 1966 to 1989. Her emphasis on quality and a less parochial outlook boosted circulation - which more than doubled - and established the Les Echos as required daily reading among the French elite. Les Echos expanded into specialist newsletters, the Enjeux Les Échos investment monthly and medical publishing. Turnover climbed from FFr11 million to over 600 million.

Pearson

London-based Pearson group, owner of the Financial Times and Penguin Books among other publishing interests, acquired 67% of the equity in Les Echos during 1988 and moved to 100% in the following year. Jacqueline Beytout commented that

the principal reason for this sale is my determination to preserve this group. Because if something happens to me then my successors will pay 57% inheritance tax. And they would then be forced to sell hastily and in bad conditions; I prefer to act now so that the enterprise does not explode.

Pearson kept Beytout on the board; she resigned in 1990 because of "increasing disagreements" and devoted herself to good works.

Her step-grandson, Nicolas Beytout, had become editor of Les Échos in 1986. He retained that position until 2004, when he went to the daily Le Figaro as editor.

L'Express-Expansion

Françoise Giroud, was the self-made daughter of a Turkish journalist. Born in Geneva, she left school at 14 to learn secretarial skills, found work as a continuity girl on some of France's best-known films, including Renoir's La Grande Illusion, became an assistant director, was jailed by the Gestapo at Fresnes prison, became editor-in-chief of Hélène Lazareff's Elle magazine and with her married lover Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber created L'Express in 1953.

Initially a 'journal of conviction', attracting attention through opposition to colonial war in Indo-China and Algeria, L'Express came to echo Time and Newsweek. It faced increasing competition from Le Point (founded in 1972 with support from Hachette and later controlled by Gaumont, Alcatel and Pinault-Printemps-Redoute) and from television.

Studies

There has been no major English language study of Les Échos, the Beytouts or Servan-Schreibers. For Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber see Jean Bothorel's Celui qui voulait tout changer, Les années JJSS (Paris: Robert Laffont 2005) and his Passions (Paris: Fixot 1991) and Les fossoyeurs (Paris: Fixot 1993). Insights are offered in L'homme de ma vie (Paris: Fayard 2004) by former wife Madeleine Chapsal and Giroud's memoir Leçons Particulières. There is a broader view in La Saga Servan-Schreiber (Paris: Seuil 1993) by Alain Rustenholz & Sandrine Treiner and Le roman de L'Express (Paris: Julian 1979) by Serge Siritsky & Françoise Roth.

Landmarks

1903 Robert Schreiber and Albert Aronson found Les Échos as monthly Les Échos de l'Exportation (Bulletin mensuel de la maison Schreiber et Aronson)

1909 sale of stake in Les Échos to Berlin-based Confectionaire

1909 rebadges as bi-monthly Les Échos (Journal d'information pour le commerce et l'industrie)

1911 buys back Confectionaire stake

1912 establishes Les Échos offices in London, New York and Brussels

1913 Les Échos becomes weekly

1918 Schreiber family buys out Aronson interests, forms Schreiber Frères

1925 launches Les Echos des Industries d'Art

1928 Les Echos becomes daily

1953 L'Express weekly magazine founded as Les Échos de Samedi

1956 L'Express spun off from Les Echos, remains in control of Servan-Schreibers

1963 Beytout family buys Les Echos group from Servan-Schreiber family

1967 Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber founds L'Expansion business magazine

1975 Lire weekly magazine created by Bernard Pivot and Jean - Louis Servan-Schreiber

1977 James Goldsmith pays US$6m for 45% of L'Express

1982 Les Echos acquires monthly Panorama du Médecin

1982 Les Echos acquires publisher Editions Jean-Baptiste Baillière and Revue du Praticien

1986 launches monthly economic magazine Dynasteurs

1987 launches medical weekly La Revue du Praticien Médecin Générale

1988 Pearson buys 35% stake in Recoletos

1988 buys 67% of Les Echos group for Fr880m

1989 buys remainder of Les Echos

1992 Dynasteurs becomes Enjeux Les Echos

1995 Havas and Alcatel buy L'Express

1996 Les Echos' Argent magazine folds after five months

1997 acquires Revue du Praticien Gynécologie et Obstétrique

1998 Les Echos acquires Eurostaf company

1998 CGE group renamed Vivendi, buys rest of Havas

2002 Express and Expansion magazine groups merge to form Groupe Express-Expansion

2002 Vivendi sells Groupe Express-Expansion (inc l'Express) and Groupe l'Etudiant to Hersant's Socpresse for €200m

2004 Dassault buys 50% of Socpresse from Hersant heirs, taking stake to 80%