FT publisher agrees to sell Les Echos business titles

Financial Times publisher Pearson has agreed to sell its French financial newspaper group, Les Echos, to LVMH for €240m (£170m).

The announcement follows a ruling by a French tribunal which concluded that Pearson’s consultation with staff had been satisfactorily completed.

Pearson said it expects the transaction with LVMH to complete towards the end of the year.

In 2006, the Les Echos group contributed €126m in revenue and €10m in profit to parent company Pearson.

The agreement includes a series of measures to protect editorial independence and jobs at Les Echos.

An 11 member supervisory board will be established, which will include three independent members and the editor-in-chief of Les Echos.

The three independent members will be appointed by the company’s shareholders from candidates agreed unanimously by a committee comprised of representatives of LVMH and the Society of Journalists of Les Echos.

Any future editor-in-chief will be nominated by LVMH subject to the approval of the supervisory board.

An ethical charter – a high level framework for the protection of editorial quality and independence – will be agreed by LVMH, Pearson and the Society of Journalists.

Les Echos staff will be protected from redundancy for at least four years, and all employees will have the right to resign and receive a dismissal payment at any point within the first two years of the sale being closed.

The move is the latest in a series of moves by Pearson to exit the European market and make way for the English-language FT to grow into a global brand.

In 2004, Pearson sold its stake in Expansion – a Spanish-language business title – and is reportedly in talks with Spiegel Verlag – owner of the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel – which is looking to buy Pearson’s 50 per cent stake in FT Deutschland.

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