Exactly eleven years and seven months after Mediapart was launched, on March 16th 2008, it has now, this Tuesday October 15th, entered into a new chapter of its history. In order to irreversibly seal its independence (see more here), Mediapart has today become the property of a non-capitalist, not-for-profit structure. All of its shareholding has been bought by the Société pour la protection de l’indépendance de Mediapart (Company for the protection of the independence of Mediapart), which itself is the property of the Fonds pour une presse libre (Fund for a free press). It is the outcome of an unprecedented project in the French media landscape, which we first announced was underway more than five years ago, in March 2014.
Created during the summer, the Fonds pour une presse libre (FPL) is an endowment fund that can receive donations from private individuals or companies, the objective of which is the defence and promotion of press freedom, the independence of journalism, and the pluralism of the press (its first communiqué on its activities, in French, is available here). Its governing board, which has already held three meetings and appointed its strategic committee, is currently organising its progressive strengthening with, between now and the end of the year, a public presentation on a dedicated website explaining its purpose and functioning and which will allow it to receive proposals.
Within the framework of its mission of public interest, aimed at the whole of the journalistic profession and completely independent of Mediapart, the FPL henceforth guarantees the economic independence of our journal which it entirely owns via the Société pour la protection de l’indépendance de Mediapart (SPIM). Thus, our structure no longer has shareholders, now that its capital has become non-transferable and unpurchaseable. This sanctuary for Mediapart’s ownership definitively protects its independence.
The valuation of Mediapart that was conducted for this operation, established through two expert studies, was 16.3 million euros. Besides its reserves of 4.4 million euros, the buy-back from all of Mediapart’s shareholders (who include its cofounders, its ‘société des amis’ of small investors, the association representing its employees, and the companies Doxa and Ecofinance) is funded by a loan of 5.5 million euros from the Crédit coopératif bank at a rate of 1.18% over a period of 8.5 years. The loan repayments, out of our yearly returns, are entirely compatible with the usual progress of Mediapart which, over recent years, has produced net income of at least 2 million euros.
On top of this loan, the financing of the operation is also ensured through the generosity of Ecofinance: Jean-Louis Bouchard, who has accompanied Mediapart ever since its creation, has chosen to donate his shares, worth 1 million euros. The other outside investor, Doxa, represented by James Sicard for Thierry Wilhelm, has agreed a vendor loan of 2.5 million euros, which means it waives immediate payment for its shares. Similarly, the four cofounders of Mediapart have agreed a vendor loan of 2.9 million euros over the period up to 2026.
Thanks to all these gestures of goodwill, the cost of the operation will have absolutely no detrimental effect upon the activities of Mediapart, which is able to continue to invest, as we have always done, in the development of its contents and the growth of its team. The essential is that a novel, innovating solution has been found to preserve our economic independence, which until now has been ensured only through the control of Mediapart’s capital by its cofounders. Between now and the end of the year, a new Mediapart governing board will mark this evolution in which the cofounders, who remain staff members, accompany the change of baton to a new generation of managers.
For you, our loyal readers, nothing will change, except for the better. In the grim landscape of the media, where most are under the grip of economic interests that are foreign to journalism, your online journal has now secured its irreversible independence. Furthermore, that is guaranteed also by your ever-larger support: today, Mediapart has close to 170,000 individual subscribers. We thank all of you, without who what might once have appeared as an improbable adventure, driven by the desire to defend the independence of news reporting and to promote quality journalism, would never have prospered to now, and to the point of inventing an entirely new structure among media organisations.
- The Conseil d’administration du Fonds pour une presse libre (FPL) is composed of Michel Broué (chairman), Dominique Cardon, Stéphanie Chevrier, Renaud Creus, Christine Lazerges, Jade Lindgaard, and François Vitrani. Its strategic committee is steered by Maurice Botbol, Ludivine Bantigny and Paul Cassia.
- The Conseil d’administration de la Société pour la protection de l’indépendance de Mediapart (SPIM) is composed of Michel Broué, Dominique Cardon, Stéphanie Chevrier, Renaud Creus, Jade Lindgaard, Muriel Mesguich and François Vitrani (chairman).