TOP EUROPEAN NEWSPAPERS: The press barons

MARCO TRONCHETTI PROVERA, PRESIDENT, IL SOLE 24 ORE, ITALY



Only in Italy, could an industrial magnate also run a leading financial

newspaper. Marco Tronchetti Provera, the president of Il Sole 24 Ore -

Italy's answer to the Financial Times - is better known as the chairman

of tyre giant Pirelli. In mid-October, he once again made headlines in

his own paper by teaming up with Benetton to snatch control of Telecom

Italia.



The deal was a classic manoeuvre by Tronchetti Provera, who through

personal and professional connections has risen to become what Business

Week recently called 'The new king of Italy, Inc.' Born in 1948, he took

over the family energy firm in 1973. In 1978, he married Cecilia

Pirelli, the daughter of the Pirelli chairman Leopoldo. Although the

marriage ended in divorce, Tronchetti Provera's career there continued

unabated.



The official owner of Il Sole 24 Ore is Confindustria, an association of

Italian entrepreneurs. But as the vice-president of Confindustria and

the president of the newspaper itself, Tronchetti Provera is its obvious

figurehead. Along with the newspaper's director, Ernesto Auci, he has

pushed for innovation while maintaining a close focus on Italy's

business elite.



The newspaper has a circulation of 409,702 (Audipress), of which 43 per

cent is based on subscriptions - highly unusual in a country where

newsstand sales are the norm. As well as a glossy monthly magazine,

Ventiquattro, the group has a website and a business news radio station,

Radio 24. This April, it unveiled its most ambitious project to date -

the business TV channel 24TV.



No doubt Tronchetti Provera will continue to keep it in stories.



YVES DE CHAISEMARTIN, CEO, LE FIGARO, FRANCE



"Monsieur de Chaisemartin never gives interviews," the PR woman at the

right-wing French daily Le Figaro says. According to insiders, Yves de

Chaisemartin, Le Figaro's enigmatic CEO, is rarely seen around the

paper's offices, either. But that doesn't mean he's not interested - he

is said to regularly phone editorial suggesting subjects for

articles.



Right now, though, the 52-year-old former lawyer has bigger poissons to

fry. The paper's circulation of 350,000 is still some way short of the

400,000 target he set when he revamped the title in 1999. It is also

struggling with squeezed advertising revenues and an ageing

readership.



According to the last survey from EuroPQN, which monitors newspaper

sales in France, almost 50 per cent of its readers are aged over 60.



This has led media analysts to suggest that the six remaining members of

the Hersant family - the heirs of Le Figaro's legendary founder Robert

Hersant - might consider selling their shares. There's no shortage of

potential buyers. According to rival left-wing newspaper Liberation, the

French luxury brand titans Francois Pinault, of Pinault-Printemps-

Redoute, and Bernard Arnault, of LVMH, are waiting in the wings. "The

acquisition of a title as influential and prestigious as Le Figaro sets

them dreaming," Liberation commented.



To cap it all, Le Figaro's editor Jean de Belot is caught up in an

insider share-trading scandal surrounding the acquisition of retail

chain Carrefour.



De Belot offered his resignation but de Chaisemartin refused to accept

it. According to Liberation, he gave the editor his full support by

making a rare appearance in the newsroom.



HEINZ-WERNER NIENSTEDT, CEO, HANDELSBLATT, GERMANY



Handelsblatt is arguably the most European of German newspapers,

especially as it has a 49 per cent share in The Wall Street Journal

Europe (the WSJE's owner, Dow Jones, has a corresponding 22 per cent

share in the German title). And its charismatic CEO, Heinz-Werner

Nienstedt, is as close as the German financial media gets to a

celebrity.



Horizont, the German equivalent of Campaign, recently named him Media

Man of the Year.



Nienstedt, 52, joined the Holtzbrinck group - Handelsblatt's owner -

from Bertelsmann, where he worked in multimedia and, he says, "launched

a number of projects that were ten years ahead of their time". He took

charge of the financial daily in 1991 and has spent a decade modernising

and improving it. His arrival coincided with a stock market boom and

Germany's new "equity culture", so Nienstedt had a whole generation of

flash young entrepreneurs to target. Now, though, he's facing tougher

times.



"The business press has seen a 20 per cent cut in advertising," he

says.



"After ten years of growth, we've had to become leaner." This has meant

job losses "in the back offices", although he stresses: "We haven't had

to sack any reporters."



The content of the newspaper has been tweaked to reflect a lessening of

interest in stocks and shares and over the past few years it has

broadened its business coverage.



Handelsblatt's circulation is subscription-based, and remains steady at

160,000. Although Nienstedt believes the economy is unlikely to improve

"until the end of next year", he is confident the newspaper is in a

strong position, saying: "Even in this climate, we've seen a double

digit growth in international advertising."



RICHARD DESMOND, CHAIRMAN, EXPRESS NEWSPAPERS, UK



The UK newspaper scene had a new addition to its circle of owners, with

the arrival this time last year of Richard Desmond at the Express. In

November 2000 he bought the ailing Express Group from Lord Hollick's

United News and Media for £125 million.



Desmond's presence in the ranks of newspaper proprietors is

controversial.



Until this year he was better-known as a publisher and broadcaster of

soft porn through his publishing company Northern & Shell and through

the FantasyTV channel. The publishing company is best known for its

repertoire of 'top-shelf' titles, including Readers' Wives and Asian

Babes. It also publishes the highly successful rival to Hello! magazine

- OK!



Since arriving at the Express he has cut staff numbers from 1,050 to

nearer 600. He believes that the Express' chief rival the Daily Mail

overspends, even though its product has been hugely successful and

continues to gain readers at the same time as the Express loses

them.



The Express titles have also lost editors as a direct result of

Desmond's arrival. Both the editor of the Daily Express and the Sunday

Express have left. As well as getting rid of a number of senior staff,

Desmond's idea is to reduce the footsoldiers on the papers and introduce

more celebrity writers. As evidenced by his investment in OK! magazine,

he is a great fan of celebrity.



One of his first moves was to sell off Express Newspaper's internet

assets which were said to be costing between £7 million and £8 million a year to run. It remains to be seen whether he can breathe

life into the Express titles.



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