Editor of 'Le Monde' bids adieu

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PARIS - In a front-page farewell article to readers, the editor of Le Monde announced his resignation yesterday writes Julian Nundy. Although he had two years of his contract still to run, said Jacques Lesourne, he was leaving in part because of 'manoeuvres, big and small, around my replacement' which began in the autumn. He said his resignation would take effect next week.

Mr Lesourne's appointment three years ago, in a newspaper where the editor is chosen by staff, was controversial because he is not a professional journalist. After a bitter battle for the editorship in which one candidate was forced to leave and the journalists' candidate rejected, Mr Lesourne, a former economics professor, was brought in to turn around the finances of France's most prestigious daily. It was founded at the end of the Second World War and now has a circulation of 312,000.

Mr Lesourne, now 65, had to deal with the consequences of Le Monde's move to modern headquarters off Montparnasse and a new printing site in the suburb of Ivry. In his statement yesterday, he said had decided to resign because the speculation over his succession could only upset the atmosphere at the newspaper.

'More than ever, Le Monde needs all its shareholders to unite around the manager,' wrote Mr Lesourne. The newspaper had made a loss last year and needed 'a change in its capital structure which, while guaranteeing editorial independence, would give the newspaper the necessary funds and a sensible method of functioning'. He was leaving because he did not have 'sufficient conditions of authority' himself.