Editorial & Business
Sipa Files For Bankruptcy
25 mars 2010, manifestation des photographes et du personnel d’Eyedea, à l’entrée du Tribunal de commerce de Paris © Michel Baret / Gamma-Rapho
Following the bankruptcy of its German shareholders, the fates of the photo agency Sipa Press and the ambitious news and photo service, Sipa News, will be decided by the Tribunal de Commerce in Paris on December 6.
On Thursday, November 22, in Paris, the weather was perfect for a visit to 1 Quai de Corse, the city’s commercial court: it was raining.
Olivier Mégean was paying his first visit to the court, where he filed for bankruptcy on behalf of three companies, including the photo agency founded by Göksin Sipahioglu, Sipa Press. He also filed for bankruptcy on behalf of Peter Löw and Martin Vorderwülbecker, the two german shareholders who “purchased” Sipa Press in July 2011.
But this difficult day was just beginning for Mégean, president, director and manager of the companies created by the German “mountebanks”. That afternoon on the Boulevard Murat, in Paris, he announced to the 127 employees of the various companies of the Sipa group that they would receive their November salaries in mid-December, and their paychecks would be cut in half .
For people working in the photo department, this was a cold water splash. They thought they were safe following the acquisition of Sipa by Sud Communication, owned by the pharmaceutical group Pierre Fabre. But the takeover came with a 2.5 million euro check, which played a key role in the creation of this “Absurdistan,” as one Sipa News journalist called it.
The blow is hard for everyone, but it might be fatal for the thirty journalists employed by Sipa News to come to the support the twenty journalists who “defected” from Associated Press France. These journalists, engaged in fixed-term contracts with Sipa News, are virtually assured of losing their jobs on December 6th. The company will no doubt be liquidated by the court. It has no assets and no revenue, only expenses!
Then there are the “defectors” from AP-France, regrouped into a company called French Language Service (FLS Limited). The company is based in London, but with a subsidiary inscribed in the commercial register on October 10th.
The latter inherited around fifteen clients that once belonged to AP France, generating a turnover of about 500,000€ a year, and fifteen employees. With its fate uncertain, its journalists are in a state of shock. On Friday, November 23, they wrote to Pierre-Yves Glass, the CEO of AP-France, a letter in which they asked that he, “assume all of his responsibilities with respect to [his] employees,” and demanded that he, “repair the situation that [he] has put [them] in.” For good measure, they alerted the Labour ministry. However, 500,000€ is not enough to cover the payroll. The court will decide.
The French Part of Absurdistan
First, the court will have to understand not only the financial situation of the three companies represented by Olivier Mégean, but also the strange situation of the shareholders of DAPD.
At the top of the pyramid, there is the German company DAPD Media Holding AG, founded and owned by Peter Löw and Martin Vorderwülbecke. This company was renamed HQTA after bankruptcy was declared for eight of its twenty-six subsidiaries October 2nd in Berlin.
HQTA still has a subsidiary in Germany, DAPD News Wire Services AG, whose director and representative in France is Olivier Mégean. This entity has two subsidiaries: Sipa Press and Sipa SAS. Why two companies? One answer might be that the two gentlemen from Munich hope to emerge unscathed from the crash.
Sipa Press is the company founded by Göksin Sipahioglu, but the other Sipa is a simplified joint stock company with a capital of 50,000€, created on March 20, 2012, and presided over by Mégean.
SIPA SAS in turn owns three subsidiaries, only one of which will currently be able to avoid the disaster: Sipa Media SAS, created on March 22, 2012, to take responsibility for the acquisition of Dioranews, the only company in this whole story to make a profit (200,000€ in 2011).
The two other subsidiaries of Sipa SAS, Sipa News SAS and the subsidiary of French Language Service Limited in France, will be reviewed in court on December 6th.
The declaration of insolvency made last Thursday by Mégean can have one of two consequences: reorganization or liquidation. In the first instance, a receiver is appointed, which was the case for Eyedea (Gamma-Rapho-Keystone). In the other instance, the court will appoint an official liquidator, which was the case with Corbis-Sygma.
It seems likely that Sipa News SAS will be liquidated and that Sipa Press will be reorganized. One uncertainty remains: what will happen to the French Language Service ?