What matters more: headlines or the bottom line?

What matters more: headlines or the bottom line? Shrinking circulations force press magnates to make tough choices. The De Benedetti family — or at least the younger members — want out of a business in structural decline. Yesterday, shares in La Repubblica owner GEDI were suspended at 28 cents while they weighed an offer for their 43 per cent stake. John Elkann, Fiat Chrysler chairman and heir of Italy’s Agnelli industrial dynasty, wants to step up. Exor, the family investment company, has a 6 per cent stake already, so would gain control. The move is a measure of his enthusiasm for news media. That was shown by purchasing a big stake in The Economist in 2015 from Pearson… The Agnellis will have plenty of firepower, especially after the merger of Fiat Chrysler, Exor’s biggest investment, with Peugeot. It expects to have €3.5 billion in its coffers by 2022… Press barons invite suspicion. Italy has a tradition of industrialists using newspapers to fight their battles. But the willingness of investors such as Exor to provide long-term capital should be welcomed. The economic case for owning mainstream newspapers is weak. Their value as scrutineers remains high, when they can avoid proprietorial bias. 

Lex.

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