Sarkozy Criticized in Selling of Paper

A group of shareholders in the French newspaper Le Monde has denounced President Nicolas Sarkozy for interfering in the process of selling the struggling publication. Mr. Sarkozy last week summoned Éric Fottorino, publisher of Le Monde, to Élysée Palace, where he is said to have expressed opposition to a bid for the newspaper from a group of three businessmen with links to the opposition Socialist Party. The president’s intervention has angered the Society of Readers of Le Monde, which is part of a shareholders’ group that, along with Le Monde employees, owns a controlling stake in the newspaper. Le Monde readers and employees are fearful of threats to the paper’s independence because they are set to lose extraordinary powers, including the right to fire top managers. Le Monde is expected to run low on cash as early as next month; executives had hoped to be able to recommend a buyer by Monday, in time for a meeting of the supervisory board of the newspaper’s parent company. But a person close to the company said Monday that the board was likely to delay the choice until at least the end of June. While the newspaper attracted scrutiny from at least five potential buyers, only two firm expressions of interest, referred to by Le Monde as “preoffers,” were submitted last week. The newspaper’s supervisory board said Monday that it had set June 21 as a deadline for offers, and that it would meet June 28 to choose a winning bid.


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