Millionaires, billionaires, the Elysée Palace and the battle for Marseille

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A curious bidding war between some of France's richest men over the ownership of loss-making daily newspapers in the south of France is nothing more than a preliminary move in a political chess game for power in Marseille, Mediapart has learned. As Laurent Mauduit reports, the cast of characters includes colourful businessman Bernard Tapie, billionaire François Pinault and President François Hollande himself, with various political interests pulling strings behind the scenes, in a tale of shifting alliances, old friendships and enmities.

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Why are some of the biggest names in French business bidding for a bankrupt press group in the south of France? The story has all the hallmarks of a typical French business intrigue. Several prominent personalities, including billionaire François Pinault, colourful businessman, politician and entertainer Bernard Tapie and Franco-Lebanese arms dealer Iskandar Safa, are vying to buy all or part of the southern branch of Groupe Hersant Média, which is in receivership. Its assets include daily newspapers La Provence, Nice-Matin, Var-Matin and Corse-Matin.