What Is Vincent Bolloré Up To?

23 October 2021

The Financial Times has an article today on the replacement of Hervé Gattegno as editor of the Journal du Dimanche and Paris Match, allegedly at the behest of the owner of both outlets, billionaire Vincent Bolloré, who also owns CNews, the TV network that is bidding to become the French Fox and until recently hosted Eric Zemmour as a regular commentator. So what is Bolloré up to?

The FT concludes that Bolloré “wanted his [Gattegno’s] head” because he had approved a cover photo of the 63-year-old Zemmour standing in shallow water embracing his 28-year-old campaign advisor. (The paper displays this image alongside images of two presidential couples, Sarkozy-Bruni and Emmanuel/Brigitte Macron emerging from the ocean—I could go on about the artful semiotics of these three images but will spare you).

What the FT does not ask, however, is why Bolloré, whose politics it describes as “Catholic conservative” and “center-right” would be so assiduously promoting the candidacy of the far-right firebrand Eric Zemmour. To be sure, the article does suggest that Bolloré, according to “people familiar with his thinking,” does “appreciate” many of Zemmour’s ideas, “including on crime.” Perhaps, but surely a businessman as shrewd as Bolloré also realizes that a Zemmour victory, like a Le Pen victory, could well undermine the value of his many investments by placing the economy in the hands of people unfit to run it. Perhaps his gamble is that by promoting Zemmour in order to undermine Le Pen, he is in fact ensuring the re-election of Macron, whose center-right politics would seem closer to his past political predilections, typified by his friendship with Sarkozy, to whom he lent his yacht for a week of post-election celebration when Sarkozy won the presidency in 2007. In the meantime, he is positioning his media properties to profit handsomely from the Zemmour boomlet.

If this is Bolloré’s calculation, it could of course backfire. Anything could happen, and the IPSOS poll I highlighted in yesterday’s post, while suggestive of a Macron win, indicates nothing so much as the volatility of the electorate. While Macron’s base of 25 percent seems solid, the remaining 75 percent of voters are not firmly moored to any candidate and could and no doubt will shift hither and yon as the campaign evolves and unforeseen contingencies emerge. But as risk-benefit calculations go, it’s probably a pretty good bet for a media mogul who would not be unhappy to see Macron re-elected to do what he can to split the far-right bloc, where the most vehement opposition to the president is concentrated.


Photo Credits: Vincent Bolloré at 2013 UNESCO Global Conference, by Copyleft (CC BY 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

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