Russian bids for Le Monde

Russian billionaire Gleb Fetisov has made a bid for one of France’s leading newspapers, which means it may join the ranks of France Soir, The Evening Standard and The Independent in papers belonging to wealthy Russians.

Fetisov's press office announced on Monday that he offered to buy a majority stake in the French broadsheet, Le Monde, Interfax news agency says.

Gleb Fetisov is the owner of Moi Bank (My Bank) and a minority shareholder in the Altimo telecom holding. According to Forbes Russia, in 2010, Gleb Fetisov is in 42nd place among Russia’s richest businessmen, with a fortune of $1.6 billion.

Confirming his offer in a press release, Fetisov said his company sees Le Monde as a unique investment opportunity.

“Right now we have a unique chance to acquire a media market player with a unique heritage, which over the years can become only more valuable. We see the possibility of expanding the list of advertisers due to interest from Russian companies, and in particular, state companies in French investment.”

He added that “the debt is of course included in the offer”, without clarifying how large an offer he has made.

Le Monde has an estimated 100 million euros in debt. Gleb Fetisov said he has “a clear idea how to restructure this debt and make money from the newspaper without interfering in Le Monde’s editorial policy.”

Le Monde daily was founded in 1944 and its majority stake belongs to its journalists through a shareholding structure.

Starting from 2008, it laid off 130 staff due to the global economic crisis.

Mr. Fetisov faces competition for Le Monde with two consortiums. The first one is the consortium of France Telecom; Groupe SFA PAR owning Le Nouvel Observateur weekly; and Prisa, a Spanish media conglomerate.

The second one is the consortium of industrialist Pierre Berge, banker Matthieu Pigasse and billionaire entrepreneur Xavier Niel.

The decision by Le Monde’s supervisory board is expected to be made on June 28.