With the acquisition of Altice Media (BFMTV, BFM Business, BFM Régions, RMC Story and RMC radio), the Franco-Lebanese billionaire is expanding his empire a little further. Through CMA CGM, the businessman is involved in numerous companies. Purchase of press titles, acquisition of logistics groups, participation in airlines and space companies… Le Figaro takes stock of the sprawling Saadé galaxy.

Rodolphe Saadé is the head of the CMA-CGM group, a container ship owner headquartered in Marseille. It is the third largest maritime transport company in the world and the first in France. Its activities also include port handling and land logistics. The history of the group is above all a family story: CMA-CGM emerged from the merger, in 1999, of the Compagnie Générale Maritime (CGM) and La Compagnie maritime d’affrètement (CMA), founded by the Franco- Lebanese Jacques Saadé, the father of Rodophe Saadé. In 2017, Rodolphe Saadé became CEO of the CMA CGM Group and Chairman of the Board of Directors. With his brother, Jacques Juniors, and his sister, Tanya, they are 73% shareholders of the group via the family holding company, Merit France.

At the end of February, CMA CGM announced that it had finalized the acquisition of Bolloré Logistics for 4.85 billion euros, allowing the group to become the fifth largest logistics provider in the world. “We will now be able to offer our customers a complete range of services and extend our expertise to new businesses,” welcomed Rodolphe Saadé, continuing the diversification of the group begun in 2018 with the acquisition of the Marseille logistician CEVA Logistics. In 2022, the group had already acquired the transporter Gefco, formerly owned by Stellantis and Russian Railways (RZD). The same year, CMA CGM finalized the acquisition of the company Colis Privé to extend its logistics offering “to the last mile”.

The group led by Rodolphe Saadé is also looking to the sky since it holds 9% of the capital of Air France-KLM. In May 2022, the marriage of the Franco-Dutch company and the air freight branch of CMA CGM was announced with great fanfare. The romance did not last long since in January 2024, the two actors announced the end of their partnership. The Marseille shipowner will still remain in the company’s capital until February 2025, as agreed in the signed agreements.

Also read: CMA CGM and Air France-KLM divorce in freight

After air travel, Rodolphe Saadé also tackled space. The CMA CGM group holds 5.5% of the capital of Eutelsat, one of the largest satellite operators in the world. The stated objective behind this participation: to improve the maritime routing of its ships. Previously, the Marseille shipowner had begun to realize its interest in space by establishing partnerships with the main players in this sector such as CNES in June 2021, or Thales AleniaSpace in November of the same year.

Also readSatellites: Eutelsat continues its arduous transition to the spatial internet

A stone’s throw from the port of Marseille and in the former buildings of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, Rodolphe Saadé has installed Zebox, a start-up incubator which defines itself as a “global ecosystem of entrepreneurs and industrial leaders.” Since its launch in 2018, the incubator has raised 235 million euros and more than 100 collaborations signed between start-ups and large groups. The shipowner has a “Media” branch, renamed “Why Not Media” at the end of 2023, after first being called CMA CGM Media. Reflecting the ambitions of the Franco-Lebanese billionaire in the media sector, the subsidiary boasts a turnover of 78 million euros and 900 employees.

“Why Not Media” has owned the La Provence press group, which publishes the daily newspapers La Provence and Corse Matin, since October 2022. The group was historically 89% owned by GBT, the businessman’s holding company in liquidation. Bernard Tapie. The takeover of the group was the subject of a bitter legal battle between the founder of Free Xavier Niel, a minority shareholder with an 11% stake, and Rodolphe Saadé. The two businessmen finally buried the hatchet in August 2022. In their agreement, the amount of which had not been communicated, Xavier Niel’s holding company, NJJ, transferred its minority shares in the group to the shipowner Press. In September 2022, the Bobigny commercial court definitively validated CMA CGM’s offer, amounting to 81 million euros, on the 89% held by GBT within Provence.

Rodolphe Saadé’s appetite is not limited to the written press. Also in 2022, CMA-CGM acquired a stake in the M6 ​​audiovisual group (M6, W9, 6ter channels and the RTL group radios) to own around 8% of the titles. In April 2023, a few months after being co-opted onto the M6 ​​supervisory board, the shipowner increased its stake to 10.25%, through an acquisition of securities on the market. Rodolphe Saadé would have liked to go further: the Franco-Lebanese had expressed his interest in buying the channel after the failure of the merger with TF1. He did not then win his case. But in its declaration to the AMF, the CMA-CGM group declared that it intends to “continue (its) acquisitions of securities (…) depending on opportunities and market conditions”. To be continued…

The darling media of 15-25 year olds, Brut attracts the desires of many investors, Rodolphe Saadé in the lead. In April 2023, a few months after going through a bad financial situation and making numerous layoffs, Brut announced that it had completed a new fundraising of 40 million euros and negotiated the entry of “Why not Media” into the company. shareholding of the group. If the share held by the shipowner remains confidential, the co-founder of Brut, Guillaume Lacroix, declared that his participation “does not upset the major balances of capital” of the media. The Franco-Lebanese billionaire rubs shoulders with other big names in Brut’s shareholding such as Xavier Niel, François Henri-Pinault (via Artémis, the holding company controlled by the Pinault family) and James Murdoch (via the Lupa fund Systems).

The announcement made headlines. In July 2023, the shipowner decided to buy the economic press title La Tribune. Owned since 2012 by entrepreneur Jean-Christophe Tortora, the daily had been owned by LVMH and Alain Weill. Before the takeover by Saadé, the Tribune was 72% owned by the HIMA group, owned by Jean-Christophe Tortora and Franck Julien. The rest still belonged to the entrepreneur Laurent Alexandre, founder of Doctissimo. By buying the Tribune, Rodolphe Saadé chose to keep Jean-Christophe Tortora at the head of the press title, almost exclusively focused on digital since 2012. In July 2023, under the leadership of the businessman, the group has returned to the paper format by launching a new general Sunday news weekly, called “La Tribune Dimanche”. The title is intended to be “without political color”, so as to “bring together all French people”, in the words of Jean-Christophe Tortora. The first issue was published on October 8, 2023, with a print run of 120,000 copies. Bruno Jeudy, a licensee of Paris Match, is piloting this new newspaper intended to compete with Journal du Dimanche (JDD), owned by Vincent Bolloré. In January 2024, Rodolphe Saadé announced reinvesting nearly 7 million euros in the press group.

This time, it’s a real thunderbolt. This Friday, March 15, Rodolphe Saadé announced his intention to buy Altice Media, owned since 2021 by Patrick Drahi, which includes the BFMTV and RMC channels. “The CMA CGM Group today signed a promise to purchase with the Altice France group with a view to acquiring 100% of the capital of Altice Media,” the shipowner indicated in a press release. If the news took everyone by surprise, it was because Altice had until now systematically denied rumors of the sale of its media branch. The transaction, which amounts to 1.55 billion euros in cash, “should be finalized during the summer”. In detail, CMA CGM indicated that it would hold 80% of Altice Media, while the remaining 20% ​​should be acquired by the Franco-Lebanese businessman’s holding company, Merit France. With this first-rate take, Rodolphe Saadé considerably increases his weight in the French media landscape. Directed by Marc-Olivier Fogiel, BFMTV is in fact the leading continuous news channel in France, although it faces strong competition from the CNews channel, a subsidiary of Vivendi, Vincent Bolloré’s group. Will the two billionaires, already in competition in the written press, now face each other in the television field?