The strange appointment of Arnaud Lagardère as head of Hachette

vsEvery week, the boxes pile up in Arnaud Lagardère’s huge office, on the first floor of the Château de Pressbourg, facing the Arc de Triomphe. Inside, books to be published by Hachette, the third largest publisher in the world and the largest in France. They are mostly detective novels in English, which he likes. “I’m a big fan of John Grisham and James Patterson, who taught me English when I was little,” he confided one day Full stop. His wife Jade Lagardère wrote three comics published by Glénat.

Already CEO of the Lagardère Group, owner of Hachette, Arnaud Lagardère will now be even more immersed in books: he has just been appointed CEO of Hachette Livre, with the blessing of the head of Vivendi, Lagardère’s buyer. “At the time of the merger of the Lagardère group with Vivendi, I wanted to show my historical and instinctive attachment to this book profession,” says Arnaud Lagardère, who wants to emphasize that he will retain his mandate as CEO within the company. Lagardère (expected until 2026).

The Bolloré family, which controls Vivendi, therefore kept its promise : the son of Jean-Luc Lagardère, who died in 2003, officially remains at the head of the Lagardère group, in which he still holds more than 10% of the capital.

The best start to the transfer window?

For certain employees of Hachette Livre, especially the prestigious publishing houses of the group (Calmann-Lévy, Grasset, Fayard, Stock, etc.) previously managed by soldiers of the book such as Jean-Louis Lisimachio or Arnaud Nourry, this appointment has a strange taste. “It’s from the moon,” said one of them. Another tries to console himself – “It’s better than a manager chopping off heads from Vivendi” – before correcting himself: “Unless we ask Arnaud Lagardère to clean up while he presents a facade of shareholder continuity for the European Commission.”

“Terrified” executives still remember the “Roman Rabbit”. In 2014, Arnaud Lagardère did not go to a seminar in Rome that he had called himself. As evil tongues say, he preferred to celebrate on the 24the his wife Jade’s birthday. The person in question denies it. “This absence sums it all up. Arnaud Lagardère is changeable and not very diligent,” says the former manager of Hachette.

Arnaud Lagardère is now expected to appoint a chief operating officer to manage day-to-day operations. Hachette, which failed to acquire Stephen King’s American publisher, Simon & Schuster, is still a big company. After the departure last summer of Fabrice Bakhouche, it moves forward mainly thanks to the heads of its various departments, either in literature, or in the educational field and dictionaries (Hachette, Hatier, Larousse, etc.).

Hachette is showing signs of slowing down, though. Its operating profit fell by 16% in the first half of 2023, to 65 million euros, with almost stable turnover, to 1.2 billion euros. An industry expert believes Arnaud Lagardère’s arrival as CEO of Hachette will cause a stir. “People are starting to discreetly stick their noses out,” he assures. While Czech entrepreneur Daniel Kretinsky has just taken control of Editis, a former subsidiary of Vivendi, it seems that the transition period for publishers and authors has begun.

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