Believe acquires French indie label Naïve in €10m deal

Believe acquires French indie label Naïve in €10m deal

Paris-based global digital music company Believe Digital has acquired the assets of French indie label Naive, adding to its fold a significant jazz and classical catalogue as well as some contemporary acts such as Jeanne Added, M83 and Benjamin Biolay.

The transaction was cleared on August 24 by the Commercial Court in Paris following a tender procedure after Naive was placed in receivership early June. It is understood that Believe will pay about €10 million for the assets, which is equivalent to a year of Naive's turnover, and is not taking over the company's debt.

One thing that played in the hand of Believe was the fact that Naive's employees had voted in favour of the company's acquisition plan. Believe pledged to continue to employ half of Naive's 52 employees.

In a statement, Believe said that it "aims to develop Naive relying on its artists, on the expertise of 26 Naive employees and on its catalogue in the musical genres that built its success".

The company added: "Believe will put its expertise in the digital business, its global presence in 30 countries, its physical and digital distribution network, and its investment capacity at the service of Naive with full respect to the editorial line that made the success of Naive: Musical diversity, non-conformity, artists with powerful universes, close relationship to the artists and transparency."

Naive was founded in 1997 by Patrick Zelnick, former CEO of Virgin France and Virgin Retail France, and Gilles Paire, former CEO of PolyGram (Paire excited the company acrimoniously several years ago) and advertising industry executive Eric Tong Cuong. The company grew steadily through acquisitions like the Auvidis catalogue and through a policy of signing contemporary artists, including former model Carla Bruni, whose debut album sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide, as well developing a roster of classical and jazz acts.

In the past few years, Naive was plagued with financial problems and had to downsize significantly. For some time, Zelnik, who has been a major force in the indie movement in France and in Europe, opposing the sale of EMI to Warner, had been looking for financial partners to continue to develop the company, but apparently without success.

With this deal, Believe comforts its status as Europe's largest independent distribution company and aggregator. In 2015, Believe co-founder and CEO Denis Ladegaillerie secured $60 million from the California Technology Crossover Ventures, to finance its expansion and was used to acquire digital firm Tunecore.

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Music Week Radar, 26th May 2016

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