By Olivia Snaije
Independent publisher Gallimard has announced interest and the plot thickened when today, Francis Esménard, CEO of Albin Michel and Jean-Paul Capitani, head of business development at Actes Sud, told French trade publication Livres Hebdo, that they had made a joint bid for Flammarion.”
Françoise Nyssen, Actes Sud’s CEO previously told trade magazine Livres Hebdo, that buying Flammarion would be a way of preserving the independence and plurality in the French publishing sphere.
Gallimard, which was the first publisher to express an interest in buying Flammarion and had been seen as a favorite, now has a formidable opponent in both Albin Michel and Actes Sud. Actes Sud, while extremely successful and dynamic, is considerably smaller in terms of revenue — 59 million euros in 2010, while Albin Michel reported 165 million euros for the same year; both firms are very interested in Flammarion’s distribution network, Union Distribution (UD).
A recent article in Le Monde underlined the complementarity of, in particular, a Flammarion-Albin Michel union. Albin Michel, which currently uses Hachette Livre as a distributor could benefit greatly from Flammarion’s distribution setup. The two houses also have a shared history — Francis Esménard’s grandfather began his career in publishing working for Ernest Flammarion over a hundred years ago. Both men were from the region of Champagne. Actes Sud, however, already uses Flammarion as a distributor, and Flammarion holds shares of 27.7% in Actes Sud Participations.
Flammarion, according to bankers and analysts, is worth between 220 and 250 million euros.
Like Gallimard and Albin Michel, Flammarion was family-run until it was acquired by RCS. Its history, said Le Monde, has been unexciting, yet Flammarion has managed to build a solid, successful company by having a little bit of everything for everyone. Its main centers of activity are concentrated on general literature, children’s books, comics, paperbacks and distribution. According to Le Monde a total of 10 candidates have made non-binding offers, five French—besides the aforementioned Média Participations and Editis are candidates — two foreign companies, HarperCollins and Feltrinelli, and three investment funds. Three offers will be retained which will lead to a second phase that will give interested buyers access to Flammarion’s financial information.