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FB Roundup: Groupe Artemis, News Corp, H&M Group

By James Beech

Pinault family’s Artemis and James Murdoch venture into Gen Z video platform Brut

Francois-Henri Pinault and James Murdoch, the scions of family-owned traditional media groups, are investing millions into Brut, a new “socially conscious” digital news provider for Generation Z and millennials.

Groupe Artemis, the $30 billion family investment vehicle co-managed by Pinault (pictured left), 59, and Lupa Systems, a private investment company set up by Murdoch (pictured below right), 48, have co-invested into a $75 million funding round for the French media startup, along with Orange Ventures, the venture capital wing of France’s largest telecoms group Orange, and Tikehau Capital, a French alternative asset manager.

In the latest Series C funding round, the co-investors joined Brut’s six historic investors led by tech entrepreneur Alfred Vericel’s venture capital company Red River West, linked to Groupe Artemis, and Alexandre Mars’ growth stage VC fund Blisce, reaffirming their interests.

Brut launched in 2016 and employs 150 staff at its headquarters in Paris. It produces French, UK, US, Spanish, Mexican and Indian versions of its platform. With a focus on social impact and social good, Brut produces videos on global current affairs, economics, science, technology, entertainment, sport, health and nature which are shareable on social media. French President Emmanuel Macron, Apple chief executive Tim Cook and climate activist Greta Thunberg are among the high-profile personalities to be interviewed by Brut.

The Certified B Corporation raised $40 million in Series B funding in late 2019. Funds were used in part to finance its launch in the United States, where it plans to be profitable within three years.

Guillaume Lacroix, co-founder and chief executive, whose career had been in French television, said Brut is already profitable in France and last year reached 20 billion video views. Brut would use the additional funds to accelerate and expand its activities into new markets, including the US, India and Africa, and diversify its content.

Groupe Artemis, based in Paris and founded in 1992, may be best known for its controlling 41% stake in the high-fashion luxury group Kering. However, the Pinault family also owns news titles Le Point and Point de Vue and the historic publishing house Tallandier.

Pinault said Brut’s authenticity and its ability to generate engagement convinced him to support its development.

“By creating innovative content with a strong civic impact, Brut attracts the youth of all countries, and thus engages a global community on societal issues all over the world. Brut answers perfectly to the deep changes of our time.”

Rupert Murdoch closes the book on $349 million Houghton Mifflin Harcourt deal

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch (pictured left) has acquired the global English language rights to bestsellers including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy after his News Corp family business snapped up the books and media segment of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The $9 billion New York headquartered diversified media and information services company announced it acquired HMH Books & Media from its struggling learning technology parent company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for $349 million in cash. The business will be operated by HarperCollins Publishers, a News Corp subsidiary and the second-largest consumer book publisher in the world.

HMH Books & Media has a back catalogue of more than 7,000 titles and a significant range in lifestyle and children’s sections. Popular HMH Books & Media titles include 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, Curious George, The Polar Express, Little Blue Truck and The Little Prince.

Deal-maker Murdoch is the founding executive co-chairman of News Corp, opposite heir apparent Lachlan Murdoch, 49. The patriarch said he was “far from done” in his acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award in January 2021, ahead of his 90th birthday in March.

News Corp claimed victory that month after Facebook agreed a multi-year deal to pay for its news content in Australia, for an undisclosed sum.

Elsewhere in his News empire, Murdoch is now lobbying the UK government to tear up legal restraints on the independence rules separating stablemates The Times and The Sunday Times ahead of a likely cost-cutting merger of editorial teams. The rules were made and independent directors were appointed as conditions when News UK acquired the newspapers in 1981. However, News UK said the rules were made in the pre-internet era and the directors were no longer needed.

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on newsstand sales in the UK. The Times and fellow News UK title The Sun, as well as Telegraph mastheads owned by the billionaire Barclay family, have opted to keep their ABC circulation figures private since the beginning of 2020.

H&M profits rebound by $1.2 billion but stores cut

The Persson family-owned Hennes & Mauritz, the world’s second-biggest fashion retailer, says its sales are almost back to the same level as before the coronavirus pandemic, but its digital transformation looks irreversible.

The Swedish group’s net sales rocketed by 75% to $5.4 billion in the second quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020 as Covid-19 lockdown restrictions eased. Profit for the second quarter soared by $1.2 billion to $422 million after a loss of $760 million in the comparable three months in 2020.

The low-cost fashion brand said in its six-month report this week its financial position remains “strong”. The board’ said there were “very good prospects” of a cash dividend in autumn 2021.

At the start of the second quarter of 2021, 1,300 H&M stores were temporarily shuttered, but at the end of the quarter 140 shops remained closed. At the most during the pandemic, 1,800 stores, or 36% of the group’s total number of shops, were closed.

However, like several of its retail rivals, the pandemic prompted H&M to accelerate its digital transformation from the high street and was not turning back. Online sales increased by 40% in the second quarter, even as stores reopened. By the end of its full year, the group plans to close about 350 stores and open just over 100 new stores—a net decrease of about 250 stores.

The chairman of H&M since 2020 is Karl-Johan Persson (pictured above left), 46, grandson of founder Erling Persson, and worth $2.1 billion according to Forbes. The family owns 46.5% of the company and has 74% of voting rights.

Helena Helmersson (pictured), 48, replaced Karl-Johan Persson as the non-family chief executive in early 2020 and became the first woman to lead one of the four largest fashion groups in the world.

Helmersson started her H&M career as a controller in the purchasing department in 1997. The provisioning and sustainability specialist said the Covid-19 crisis “has made us even stronger” as a company.

“The lessons we have learned are enabling us to be even better and faster at making the most of new opportunities, and we are optimistic about the future.”

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