VIDEO. Lagardère, the end of an empire? How the founder’s son liquidated the inheritance

In the heyday, Lagardère consisted of three radio stations (Europe 1, RFM, Virgin Radio), 1,300 Relay kiosks where the group also sold its own magazines (The JDD, Paris Match, TV 7 Daysto name a few) and his own books published by the giant Hachette, the TV shows he produced, his prestigious performance halls… and also a company specializing in missiles, famous for its racing stable car: Matra.

At the end of the 1990s, the group was at its zenith. Jean-Luc Lagardère completed his life’s work with the birth of the aeronautics giant EADS. But in March 2003, he suddenly fell into a coma, struck by Hurst syndrome, a very rare autoimmune disease. He dies a few days later. “To respect what [s]we father would have liked“, his only son succeeds him at the head of a group which weighs nearly 13 billion euros and employs 35,000 people. Of Arnaud Lagardère, who was then 42 years old, many believe that he did not want to be boss , but felt compelled to be.

More than half of the turnover lost in eighteen years

In twenty years, he will in any case have chained contested strategic choices, projects without a future and resounding fiascos. In the Lagardère Sports branch, abolished in 2020, a good billion euros would have been swallowed up. At the same time, feeling the aeronautics sector too political for him, Arnaud Lagardère sold his shares in EADS. A decision “catastrophic for shareholders” as denounced by the jurist Colette Neuville.

“If we look at what EADS shares are now worth compared to the price at which they were sold, the calculation shows that we have a shortfall of 11 billion.”

Colette Neuville, President of the Association for the Defense of Minority Shareholders (ADAM)

to “Further investigation”

Over the years, Arnaud Lagardère will also sell almost all of its activities in the media. He decides to focus on publishing as well as station and airport shops. The turnover continues to melt, divided by 2.5 in eighteen years. It is now the whole of Paris who doubts the heir, whose image is rather that of a dilettante than of a big boss.

Perhaps to correct this bad image, in 2017 he authorized a team from “Complément d’Enquête” to attend a work meeting at Hachette, the flagship of the group. But if the publishing house, a successful machine that weighs 2.5 billion euros, has gone in fifteen years from 13th to 3rd place in the world, it is to another Arnaud that the merit would go. .. Arnaud Nourry, the highly respected CEO of Hachette, was however landed in 2021. The reason for this eviction could well be his open opposition to any merger with Editis, the publishing subsidiary of Vincent Bolloré’s group…

Extract from “Lagardère: the end of an empire?”, a document to see in “Complément d’Enquête” on June 2, 2022.

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