Sparring Sisters Slug it Out for Groupe Marie Claire

04 December 2000

Jackie Collins could have written this saga of a sibling brawl with sister Joan in one of the three starring roles alongside former drama queens Bette Davis and Joan Crawford!

The sisterly slug-out over the future of one of the world's most successful magazine groups also features cosmetics giant L’Oréal in a scene-stealing supporting role and a share of box office take.

The three grand-daughters of former multi-millionaire media mogul Jean Prouvost, founder of Groupe Marie Claire, are battling to decide the future of the company in which L’Oréal has a 49% holding. Its stake was acquired in 1976 as a favour to the three sisters, Evelyne and Marie-Laure Prouvost-Berry, and Donatienne de Montmort, who each hold 17%, commanding between them the balance of power.

Evelyne, chairman and chief executive of Marie Claire, and Marie-Laure are determined to retain control of the group; sister Donatienne, however, wants to sell her 17% to Hachette Filipacchi Medias, a subsidiary of the powerful Lagadere group that now owns most of the former Prouvost empire except Marie Claire. But any such a sale would automatically trigger L’Oréal’s pre-emption rights, enabling it to raise its stake to a controlling 57.3%.

Although the cosmetics group insists it "has no intention of becoming a strategic player in the magazine press", it intends to exercise its right “to ensure that [L’Oréal’s] interests are fully preserved," according to a company spoke. Speculation around the Paris media grapevine has it that the cosmetician’s aim is purely commercial – to increase the value of its holding and prevent Lagadere gaining further influence among the advertising media used by L'Oreal.

Whatever the outcome of the sibling battle, L’Oréal is on to a nice little earner. Its 49% stake, which cost just FFr9 million in 1976, is now worth anything up to FFr 500m.

News source: Financial Times