MEDIA HEADLINER: Denfert-Rochereau prepares to tackle UK publishing giants

Is Hachette Filipacchi set to give the UK mag market a shake-up?

Jean-Paul Denfert-Rochereau is a name that probably means very little to most people in this country. However, if all goes to plan, the UK magazine industry may soon become familiar with his work.

For as the international chief executive of the French publishing giant Hachette Filipacchi, Denfert-Rochereau is one of the principle architects behind the purchase of Attic Futura, a move that looks set to shake up the UK's publishing pecking order.

Hachette's first foray into UK consumer magazines took the form of a partnership with Emap, the main fruit of which was the joint publication of Hachette's flagship title Elle.

Now the Attic Futura deal has led Emap to cut its ties with the French outfit and therefore deny it numerous juicy cross-selling opportunities. But Hachette can console itself with the knowledge that by combining Elle and Elle Girl with Attic's B and Sugar, it will have a very strong presence in both the women's and teenage magazine sectors.

The Attic deal is the latest of Hachette's many moves into foreign markets. The company, which also publishes Paris Match and bankrolled the late John F Kennedy Jnr's ill-fated political magazine George, currently has a presence in 34 countries.

"There are two reasons for this, Denfert-Rochereau explains. "One, we have a market share in France which is big - between 20 and 25 per cent in circulation. This is very large and difficult to widen significantly. Secondly, through Elle we've learned to develop our trademarks internationally."

As the head of Hachette's international operations, Denfert-Rochereau, 56, is instrumental in implementing the company's launch strategies in foreign markets. This strategy usually begins with the launch of Elle, but with that already taken care of in the UK, Hachette will instead be looking to push Attic's other titles, broaden its product offering and eventually challenge the likes of IPC and Emap.

Through the joint venture with Emap, Hachette has already had an opportunity to experience how the UK consumer magazine industry operates. So how does the UK sector compare with its French counterpart?

"There are similarities, Denfert-Rochereau says, "as the main areas of interest for consumer magazines are the same. But there are large differences due to the fact that in the UK the daily press is much more developed than in France, and so as far as magazines are concerned, the role of the weekly supplement is widened. French magazines have to be more informative, and more developed and different from each other."

After spending much of his early career in the French banking sector, Denfert-Rochereau joined Hachette in 1982. In 1995, he was rewarded for his 13 years of loyal service with the role of chief executive international.

Denfert-Rochereau appears to relish the variety of his work, appreciating both the fast changing nature of the industry and the fresh challenges that each new international market presents him with. Listing hunting and riding among his hobbies, he gives the impression that he is a man who has his professional life placed in a healthy context, scoffing at the suggestion that he takes his work home with him.

"I have a family, a wife and children, and I like to spend time with them, he says. "I also like to visit Provence. Travelling for me is relaxing.

I've been to Europe, the US and various other countries, but unfortunately I've spent too short a time in these places and don't get a chance to see too much of them, because I'm so busy. But each time I visit another country I say to myself 'I will see this place'."

But leisure interests are secondary for the moment. Hachette's immediate priority is to come to an agreement with Emap as to which company will continue to publish the jointly produced Red.

As for its plans for Attic, Hachette's UK managing director, Vivien Cotterill, claims that the company wants to become a top-three UK consumer magazine publisher within five years.

"I think there is a good brand fit. Hachette has got every single sector of the market covered, it's a huge operation, she says.

The future is definitely looking brighter for Attic Futura, and in Hachette UK the company now has a name that the industry can take more seriously.

But in the recent ABCs, Attic's women's and teen titles did not fair well. Hachette has great ambitions for the newest member of its international family, but elevating it into the UK top three within five years will be no mean feat.

Denfert-Rochereau will have his work cut out. It looks like he may have to delay his sightseeing for a few more years.

1976: Louis Dreyfus Bank, manager
1982: Hachette Filipacchi Presse, chief controller
1987: Hachette Filipacchi Presse, director of international operations
1995: Hachette Filipacchi Group, chief executive international and
chairman of Hachette Filipacchi Presse Asia-Pacific


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