Shipping magnate Rodolphe Saadé to buy French news channel BFM

Unlock the Editor’s Digest for free

Shipping magnate Rodolphe Saadé is expanding his media holdings in France by buying news channel BFM TV and RMC radio station from fellow billionaire Patrick Drahi.

Drahi’s telecoms and media group Altice announced on Friday that it had entered exclusive talks with Saadé’s maritime transport group CMA CGM and his family office over a sale that would value BFM and RMC at €1.55bn in cash. They aim to close sometime this summer.

For Drahi, the sale is part of efforts to sell assets to chip away at a roughly $60bn debt burden at Altice, which owns operator SFR in France and others in the US, Portugal and Israel.

For Saadé, the acquisition shows his ambition to further put his mark on the French media landscape where he has already snapped up business newspaper La Tribune, the Marseille-based paper La Provence, and a 10 per cent stake in television channel M6, the second-biggest private broadcaster.

The 54-year old has set the family-owned CMA-CGM on an acquisition spree since it made windfall profits during the Covid-19 pandemic with the twin aims of diversifying the group into logistics so as to offset the volatility of container shipping and build a media business.

The latter is more of a tool for influence in France than a moneymaking endeavour given the modest scale of the media assets — many of the country’s billionaires own newspapers and TV channels, including LVMH chief Bernard Arnault who owns the Les Echos and Le Parisien papers), telecoms founder Xavier Niel with Le Monde and industrialist Vincent Bolloré (CNews, Journal du Dimanche). The Dassault family, which owns a major defence company, holds Le Figaro newspaper.

Critics warn that such ownership poses a threat to the impartiality of the media and brings risks to French democracy. They have also questioned why outlets owned by billionaires still qualify for subsidies from the government. But a parliamentary inquiry in 2022 that questioned the billionaire media owners did not lead to changes in regulation or law.

Altice Média, which owns BFM and RMC and is France’s third-biggest private broadcaster, said it boosted sales by more than 80 per cent in its decade of ownership to reach €362mn in 2023 and nearly tripled operating profit to €112mn.

“Through this contemplated acquisition, we have the ambition to pursue our long-term development into the media sector,” Saadé said in a statement, adding that it would bring “the highest-quality news, sports, and entertainment content, addressing the needs of a constantly growing audience with diversified consumption patterns”.

The structure of the deal calls for 80 per cent of Altice Média to be acquired by CMA CGM, and 20 per cent by Saadé’s family office, Merit France.

In an email to staff, Altice Média head Arthur Dreyfuss cast it as a positive for the group that it was remaining under family ownership.

“We can rejoice that a new entrepreneur, Rodolphe Saadé, at the head of a family-owned group, anchored in France and with a long-term industrial vision, will continue what Patrick Drahi and Altice have done,” he wrote.

Altice Média employs about 1,700 people including 900 journalists. BFM is the most-watched news channel in France, and along with RMC radio, it remains influential in shaping the national conversation with government ministers, politicians and chief executives frequently featuring among the guests. Its main competitors are the public broadcasters France Télévisions and Radio France, as well as Vivendi’s CNews.


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.