“France Soir” rises from the ashes under new Russian ownership

Alexandre Pugatchev After undergoing yet another serious makeover, 60-year old French daily France Soir’s latest incarnation hit the Paris newsstands today.  The relaunch was celebrated with a party at the chic restaurant “Le Georges” on top of the Pompidou Museum near Les Halles in Paris.  The title is now owned and run by 25-year old Alexandre Pugatchev (above picture), son of Russian oligarch Serguei Pugatchev, a former banking executive said to be very close to Putin.  The Pugatchev family, which also owns the French upscale caterer Hédiard, moved to the Nice area in the late nineties and Alexandre went to school in Monaco.  It’s unclear what the family’s intentions are with the France Soir brand (print + online), but the investment (rumored to be as high as 30 million euros in total, with 6 million just for marketing/communication) in the relaunch was a much welcomed breather for the fledgling title, whose recent circulation was around 22 000 copies sold per day.  France Soir was at its peak in the 50’s all the way until the early 80’s under the lead of legendary French journalist Pierre Lazareff (whose wife founded ELLE in 1946).  Since then it’s been declining steadily with ever-changing ownership.

FS comparison

If the move of the daily’s HQ to the swanky Champs-Elysées wasn’t enough, one clearly understands that the young Mr. Pugatchev has high hopes for France Soir. He has hired Christian de Villeneuve to lead the editorial side away from its Lagardère Active’s Group Editorial Director position as well Editor of Le Journal du Dimanche.  Before that, he was Editorial Director of French mid-market daily Le Parisien, owned by Amaury Médias. It’s also hired experienced big-name contributors such as TF1’s former lead TV newscaster Patrick Poivre d’Arvor and sportscaster Thierry Roland.  On the business side, ad sales honcho Anne de Potier, formerly of newsweekly Nouvel Obs Group, joined a few months ago to try to lure advertisers back in a middle-class paper they deserted a long time ago. Not an easy task.

France soir box ad onlineIt’s interesting to see another mid-market European daily go under Russian ownership, shortly after Britain’s Evening Standard was bought and turned into a free sheet by Alexander Lebedev.  Andy they are both evening papers (soir = evening) too!  Anyway, France Soir is no longer one of the major voices in France. It is popular amongst OTB players and crosswords afficionados mostly so the challenge will be to attract new readers likely to take the paper up a notch in terms of its readership’s social status.  The new France Soir management is hoping to circulate 500 000 copies a day by lowering the price to 0,50 cents per copy at first (then 0,70 or 0,90 cents most likely), still far lower than its competitor Le Parisien.  Break even point is said to be at 220 000 copies a day.  While the relaunch is welcome during these hard times for print, the overall feeling is that the title cannot be saved.  Or maybe it’s just the French being pessimistic, I mean French…


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