The management and employees of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo are engrossed in a bitter wrangle over distribution of wealth that suddenly and amply poured into their coffers. After the magazine’s staff and editors came under gunfire which left 12 people dead, including a Muslim cop and the chief-editor, the world reached out and sympathy poured in from all corners.
But speaking from a commercial and financial perspective, Charlie Hebdo is doing exceptionally well in the wake of the deadly shootings and a stand-off. Since extremists attacked the magazine in January — after being outraged by drawings of the prophet Mohammed and killing 12 people — sales have jumped into the hundreds of thousands, and revenue has reached $32 million. The publication that never made it past 30,000 copies sold over 8 million copies of the issue that was published following the shootings.
As the copies keep flying off the shelves, employees are now getting restless over the influx of wealth, which they presently do not have access to or part-ownership over. While the late editor Stephane Charbonnier owned 40 percent of the Charlie Hebdo shares, his parents own another 40 percent. The rest of the company is owned by Laurent Sourisseau and Eric Portheault.
Now, 11 members of staff have instructed lawyers to launch a legal action to turn the magazine into a co-operative so everyone can get a share of the profits. Other employees think such a move would be wrong and is an attempt to get their hands on the 40% of shares owned by Charbonnier, “before the worms have finished eating him.”
One of the company’s outspoken rebels, Patrick Pelloux, who wants the money to be shared out equally said,
“When a company has been decimated, you feel completely tied to it. It is not a question of sharing the cake. The money does not interest us. A co-operative would bind contributors to the newspaper.”
One of the magazine’s journalists Laurent Léger said,
“A new distribution of the capital would allow for the incredible influx of funds to the newspaper to be used in the most transparent manner possible.”
But the owners do not share the sentiment. A spokesman for Sourisseau and Portheault pushed back.
“It makes you think of those funerals where everyone is fighting over the grandmother’s jewelry on the way back from the cemetery. We note the desire of the staff to be associated with the life of the newspaper. But we are a long way from thinking about the make-up of the shareholders.”
While owners have refrained themselves from taking dividends for three years and want to ensure the £3 million received in donations after the attack went to victims’ families, they haven’t yet clarified about the wealth accumulated so far or about the money that continues to pour in.
[Image Credit | Baumann/SIPA/REX, Eric Gaillard/Reuters]