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CMA CGM’s Billionaire Boss in Search of Media Acquisitions

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November 15, 2022

By Tara Patel (Bloomberg) —

French shipping billionaire Rodolphe Saade is seeking more media acquisitions after snapping up a regional newspaper and failing to get his hands on a broadcaster.

“I am interested in media,” he said in an interview Tuesday on France Inter radio. “I am looking at everything, the subject interests me.”

Saade, whose family-owned container line CMA CGM SA has its headquarters in the southern port of Marseille, joined the ranks of French billionaires who dominate the country’s media scene after buying the city’s regional daily La Provence a few months ago. The Saade family has a net worth of $16.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 

A significant chunk of French media is held by billionaires. Newspaper of record Le Monde is owned by a group of investors including telecoms tycoon Xavier Niel and Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky. Luxury group LVMH, founded by billionaire Bernard Arnault, controls Les Echos-Le Parisien, while Le Figaro is owned by Group Industriel Marcel Dassault SA, the holding company of the Rafale aircraft-making Dassault family. Through Vivendi, billionaire Vincent Bollore holds Pay TV groupe Canal+, radio Europe1, and magazine Paris Match among other media assets.

Saade’s foray into media comes amid an acquisitions spree through the family’s closely held CMA CGM, the world’s third-largest container line. In addition reaching a deal to buy Niel’s stake in La Provence newspaper, he was also part of a bidding consortium for French television company Groupe M6 before German media giant Bertelsmann SE & Co. decided not to proceed with the sale.

Skyrocketing freight rates during the pandemic gave CMA CGM a cash pile to bankroll acquisitions, including of logistics companies, a stake in Air France-KLM, new vessels and a holding in a satellite operator.

In Tuesday’s interview, Saade quashed talk of a purchase of the football club Olympique de Marseille. Speculation about a possible acquisition had grown after he reached an agreement this month for CMA CGM to become the club’s major sponsor in the 2023-2024 season. 

Moves into football club ownership and even politics would have been in keeping with other wealthy business owners.

“For the moment, I’m not doing politics, and for OM we’re putting in place this strategic partnership and I think that’s enough,” Saade said.

–With assistance from Phil Serafino and Benoit Berthelot.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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