a media industry resource

Hachette, Lagardere, Wendel


This profile considers Hachette-Filipacchi (the media arm of the Lagardère industrial conglomerate) and Wendel publishing interests.

It covers -

* introduction
* Lagardere
* Editis and Wendel
* Prouvost and Marie-Claire
* studies
* holdings


French book publishing is dominated by two groups - Lagardere and Wendel Investissement.

Lagardere's publishing interests centre on Hachette-Filipacchi, now one of the world's largest magazine publishers (with operations on most continents). In addition to its magazine publishing Hachette has large-scale book publishing and distribution operations, including the UK-based Hodder Headline group. Parent Lagardere has major aerospace and other high technology interests.

Wendel moved into publishing in 2004. Its operations encompass mining, biotechnology, property, electrical manufacturing and other interests.


Paris-based magazine, newspaper and advertising giant Hachette-Filipacchi is owned by French industrial conglomerate (munitions, telecommunication gear, aerospace and - until 2003 - cars) Lagardère.

Its presence outside Europe is often through licensing of titles: around 157 titles, often through local editions (for example there were 31 editions of Elle, 15 of Elle Décoration and 11 of Car & Driver).

Within France it has a dominant role in newspaper distribution through the Relay kiosk chain and the Nouvelles Messageries de la Presse Parisienne (NMPP). It owns regional newspapers such as Nice Matin and La Provence and leads the local magazine market (titles include Paris Match, Elle, Télé 7 Jours and Pariscope). It has a small stake in ailing Parti Communiste Français newspaper L'Humanité.

Revenue is €2.3 billion, with 51% outside France and 65% in the EU. It claims to be the third largest magazine publisher in the US and Italy, the largest in France and Spain, and globally the largest magazine publisher.

Hachette dates from a bookshop opened in Paris by Louis Hachette in the 1820s. It became a major publisher and the dominant media buyer. Lagardere acquired Hachette in 1981.

In March 2005 the Le Monde board announced a recapitalization agreement in which Spanish publisher Grupo PRISA and Lagardere SA would contribute €25 million each to a capital increase alongside other potential new investors.

A chronology for the group is here.

Editis and Wendel

In October 2002 Lagardere agreed to buy Vivendi's EU and Latin American publishing units - for example the Larousse, Robert Laffont and Bordas imprints of Vivendi Universal Publishing (VUP) - for US$1.2 billion.

That agreement attracted criticism from competitors and government agencies (eg comments that Lagardere would have over 50% of France's paperback sales, 80% of textbook sales and 69% of book distribution), reflected in the decision by the European Commission's competition unit that Lagardere should relinquish much of the acquisition. Accordingly, in May 2004 Lagardere sold Editis - a publishing group that accounted for around 60% of the interests acquired from Vivendi - to conglomerate Wendel Investissement for around €660 million. It retained key imprints such as Larousse, Anaya, Dunod, Dalloz and Armand Colin.

Wendel Investissement resulted from the 2002 merger of Marine-Wendel and CGIP (Compagnie Generale d’Industrie et de Participations), banking and investment groups controlled by the extended de Wendel family under the leadership of Ernest-Antoine Seillière. The group has stakes in ICT (eg 11% of Cap Gemini Ernst & Young), manufacturing (eg 9% of Valeo, 100% of Wheelabrator Allevard and 34% of Legrand), inspection and testing services (33% of Bureau Veritas), mining and property development (eg Oranje-Nassau), publishing (30% of Trader Classified Media) and biotechnology (eg bioMérieux Alliance and Stallergenes).

The family fortune originated in iron making prior to the French Revolution, with expansion into steel, coal mining, shipbuilding, arms manufacture and finance over the past two centuries. It survived criticism from the left and right during the 1920s and 1930s that it was the centrepiece of the Mur d'Argent (wall of money) that supposedly stifled France's economy, opposition to the Vichy regime, and recurrent nationalisation of the iron, steel, mining and railway interests.

Acquisition of Editis represents de Wendel entry into book publishing, although the family had some newspaper interests prior to 1940. François de Wendel, president of the Banque de France and arguably France's leading industrialist during the interwar period, for example purchased the elite Journal des Debats and subsidised Le Temps.

Prouvost and Marie Claire

Hachette has a 42% stake in publisher Marie Claire, controlled by the heirs of industrialist Jean Prouvost (1885-1978) and Nicholas Berry.

The group includes Marie-Claire (deliciously denounced in the mid-1930s by a distinguished cleric as "a menace to chastity and marital fidelity"), Marie-Claire Maison, Avantages, Famili and Cuisine et vins de France. Family newspaper, printing and magazine interests - often in partnership with the Beghin paper and sugar refining dynasty - formerly included Le Figaro (now controlled by Dassault's Socpresse), Paris-Match, Paris-Soir, Paris-Midi and Sept Jours.

Prouvost had inherited major wool processing and spinning mills in the north of France. He modernised France's largest wool-combing factory with war compensation after 1918 before opening subsidiaries in the US and Czechoslovakia. Unlike most other members of the industrial aristocracy his media involvement in the 1930s was financially successful, marked by alliance with the Beghin family (expanding from sugar refining to fine paper production) in launch of a series of photo-oriented newspapers and magazines.
Paris Soir, founded 1931, reached circulation of 1.8m by 1939. Match reached 1.4m a year after establishment in 1938.

Prouvost was Minister of Information in 1940. Growth was interrupted by the 1939-45 War, which saw closure of some titles, but Prouvost's print holdings grew in the 1950s with acquisition of Le Figaro from the ex-wife of colourful perfumier François Coty (1874-1934). Coty had acquired Le Figaro in 1922 and founded L'Ami du people in 1926. It reached the 1m circulation mark in 1930 after a war with Havas about news and with Hachette about distributional. Coty's political ambitions had been reflected in subsidies of Action Française, the Bonapartist Autorite and Croix de Feu title Le Flambeau.

The 1970s saw disposal of some Prouvost titles and sale of around 50% of Marie Claire shares to cosmetics giant L'Oreal; that stake was subsequently repurchased by the Prouvost family and sold to Hachette.

The family's textile interests passed to the Chargeurs conglomerate led by Jérôme Seydoux, which prior to 1997 included the Pathé SA communications group (film and video production, cinemas, cable and satellite interests such as equity in BSkyB and CanalSatellite, and control of Libération newspaper). Pathé was acquired by Vivendi in 1999 and subsequently dismantled, with most components being resold to Seydoux.


There is no major English-language study of Lagardère or Hachette. Richard Barbrook's splendid Media Freedom: The Contradictions of Communications in the Age of Modernity (London: Pluto Press 1995) offer insights on the regulatory environment in France.

For the early years see the five volume Histoire Générale de la Presse Française (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1969-1976) by Claude Bellanger, Jacques Godechot, Pierre Guiral & Fernand Terrou and The Government & the Newspaper Press in France, 1814-1881 (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1959) by Irene Collins.

For the Wendels see Pierre Fritsch's Les Wendel, Rois de l'Acier Français (Paris: Laffont 1976), Jean Jeanneny's more searching François de Wendel en République: l'argent et le pouvoir, 1914-1940 (Paris: Seuil 1976), The Wendel Family: 'Affectio Societatis': The Story of A French Industrial Dynasty (1704-1976) (Fontainebleau: INSEAD 1999) by Christine Blondel & Ludo Van der Heyden and La banque Seillière-Demachy: Une dynastie familiale au centre du négoce, de la finance et des arts 1798-1998 (Paris: éditions Perrin 1999) edited by Raymond Dartevelle. There is a brief and characteristically insightful profile in David Landes' Dynasties: Fortunes and Misfortunes of the World's Great Family Businesses (New York: Viking 2006).

Jean Prouvost is profiled in Marc Martin's Medias et journalistes de la Republique (Paris: Editions Odile Jacob 1997) and in Marcel Haedrich's thinner Citizen Prouvost: le portrait incontournable d'un grand patron de la presse française (Paris: Filipacchi 1995). The memoir A la grâce de dieu (Paris: Le Seuil 1973) by Prouvost's wife and editor Marcelle Auclair is also of value.

For Arnold see Bryan Bennett's Edward Arnold: 100 Years of Publishing (London: Arnold 1990)