In 5 years, the group Revolution 9 has swallowed over 70 companies in the sector of communication. Under conditions and for a result that some employees and suppliers will not cease to denounce from. Investigation.
This is the story of dozens of companies that have succumbed to the sirens of a single buyer and a bite today fingers. In five years, the group Revolution 9 has acquired more than 70 companies, working in advertising, communication or publishing. A strategy of conquest, ambitious, within a sector consists of a multitude of small boxes in the face of a few big-name historical.
Ipso Facto, Hyptique, Like a lion, Book of health... under the banner of "R9", these agencies, grouped together in 6000 m2 designed by Jean Nouvel in Issy-les-Moulineaux, rally now, as the three leaders of the group, some 330 employees to 28 million euros of gross margin.
These leaders present the group as an "alliance of post-digital" strong business built over the redemptions. They pride themselves to be included in the "top 3" groups of independent communications. But grains of sand disturb the beautiful entrepreneurial adventure.Your support is essential. Subscribe for $ 1 support Us
providers are stepping up their efforts to claim unpaid bills and their grumbling swells on the social networks. A collective boasts over 40 members, all former employees who struggle to get their due. Internally, managers bear witness to checks in wood given as wages or contributions are not paid to social organizations. The management argues the incidents passengers.
73 redemptions in five years
Corinne* founded his agency com in the 90's. For she, R9 first appeared as the Messiah. "I'm exhausting to carry my box to the end of arm, as all the agencies that have been weakened by the crisis," she recalls. Carole* has done to turn his own during 20 years with three or four employees. "I wasn't Bill Gates, but I came out, she said. It was a small modest business but without debt." Has the age of fifty, she desired to associate with, "for security".
R9 approached them, like dozens of others. A strategy assumed by the three bosses, Olivier Baillet, Xavier Baillet and Nicolas Bianciotto. "We have completed 73 transactions in five years, but many of the structures employ only two or three people," says the latter. One-third of their targets are in trouble, sometimes for a symbolic one euro against the repayment of their debts, the retention of employees, and the salary of the officers.
The rest? "The boxes that are going well," says Nicolas Bianciotto. The company promises to agencies overwhelmed by the digital a new boost. "I was happy to join a group that would give us a chance to evolve," recalls Corinne.
The others are often entrepreneurs seeking to prepare their estate. During the buyout, the managers become leaders of employees - or "managers". A guarantee. In theory, they keep the hand on the business strategy and managerial skills of their baby.
Apart from companies included for one euro, all of the subsidiaries are acquired according to the rule of the seller's loan, in three instalments. "We pay a third party and the future results of the target will generate money for the payment of the other two," explains Nicolas Bianciotto. It is a classic strategy of LBO [leverage buy-out, editor's NOTE]."
"send a reminder"
Corinne and Carole were quickly disillusioned. The calls of the providers that they had retained after the redemption is increased. "All complained of not being paid for," sigh the ex-managers, who had logically given cheque books and debit cards to the leaders of R9.
Their cases are not exceptions. The Express obtained several injunctions of payment of providers unable to recover their due, despite reminders and bailiffs.
"The accounting led us in a boat, illustrated by Geraldine*, which has, until recently, carried out missions to a subsidiary acquired by R9. We finished by telling us: 'Make us an injunction'." His bill amounted to several tens of thousands of euros.
The subject remains topical, according to a manager in post, who, "by dint of being insulted by the providers", are not won over to his phone.
at the same time, in an e-mail in-house, the three founders of the holding company concede that they were "not tender with the suppliers". But they put delays or failures in payment on account of the "crisis of growth of a start-up".
Has The Express, Nicholas Bianciotto ensures that the group has settled the majority of claims providers. According to our information, there would be yet 3 million euros for unpaid in respect of the year 2015.
Checks in the wood and radiation from a mutual
The payments chaotic also affect the employees of the group. Employees of different companies say that they have seen their pay declined several times by their bank. There was more money on the account of their company or the subsidiary is supposed to pay. The salaries of the employees are in fact often paid with checks in the name of other companies than the one that employs them.
In an internal mail, sent to the managers at the end of January, the leaders are trying to reassure the troops on the salaries of December: "The risk on the cheque is fairly limited (10%)"...
On 6 February 2014, the Urssaf landed in the former offices of the group and intimate the order to several employees leaving the premises: the social security contributions on their wages have not been paid.
at the End of 2015, the problems continue to exist: many subsidiaries still have received formal warnings. "In the absence of immediate regularization, I will ask for the registration of a lien with the court of competent jurisdiction, prevents the Urssaf, in its opinion amicable. I inform you that the registry of these entries is public, Any person can have knowledge (bank, suppliers, etc.)," she continued, thoughtfully. The consultation of the privileges of the companies of the group leaves, in fact, appear to be very many claims, in excess of one million euros. Nothing illegal, since the subsidiaries and the holding companies have payment deadlines. But when asked about the subject, Nicolas Bianciotto concede: "Yes, there has been a control of the Urssaf. Yes, we try to moratorier (sic) the Urssaf". Include: offset regulations.
The contributions are still levied on wages, such as those of the mutual societies and other contracts of a provident fund or supplementary pension. Here, too, the clashes are frequent. In the summer of 2015, several employees learn the mutual MIE that their contract health is broken "following the various raises money from (their) employer". An isolated case? Not really. Axa, Generali, AG2R or Klésia have fired them as warning shots.
"For more than two years, I've stopped relying on my mutual, because I was never sure of not having been canceled," remembers Emilie. This ex-employee claims to have been striped several times of files to their insurer.
"They destroyed the value of my business"
again, these delays are borne by R9, but they ruffle the hair of the former small bosses. The Express was able to review the bank statements of the companies in the group in the months that have followed his redemption: there are very many transfers in favour of other subsidiaries, to the extent that the accounts are found several times emptied and the payment of social organizations rejected.
"The holding company absorbs the cash of the businesses it acquires to finance new acquisitions," says a former of the group, which summarizes the feeling of many managers and ex-managers.
The leaders of R9 can stand for "siphoning off" cash from their targets, but are operating without hiding the convention of cash between them. "We always go up the most cash possible," says Nicolas Bianciotto. When one buys a company that has one million euros on its bank account because it was managed as a good father of the family, it serves us nothing to keep this cash on the account."
what To do gnash the teeth, ex-managers, who are responsible for the delay or absence of payment of which they are not responsible. "They have destroyed the value of my business by breaking the relationship of trust that I was conversing with my partners and customers before being purchased", fulminates a manager still in office, ulcerated. "I feel guilty towards my employees that I have trained in this history," adds another.
as for generating money from the companies taken over, the bosses will not go there by four paths: they dégraissent. "When we take control of a company which goes wrong, priority is given to economic dismissals, assumes Nicolas Bianciotto. The objective is to ensure that they would get better as quickly as possible. In a agency com', 3/4 of the expense is wages."
Since its first acquisitions, the group would be separated by approximately 250 people. 86 left R9 in 2015, nearly 3/4 under the regime of the dismissal on economic grounds, which imply a justification by the employer of the difficulties faced both at the level of the subsidiaries of the holding company.
The three bosses speak yet of Revolution 9 as a profitable business. But, when layoffs are contested, his lawyers insist on his poor health. In early February, one of them says in an argument that "the debts of all corporations increased by approximately eur 10 million in 2013 and reach approximately 20 million euro in 2014". He argues that a deficit in cash of 18 437 162 euros, with an operating income deficit of 798 556 euros in 2014.
R9 now takes its distances with this argument. "These figures come from our lawyers... of which the least one can say is that they are not accountants," explains Nicolas Bianciotto, adding that it would be impossible for a group to total a cash deficit of over 18 million euros.
either way, R9 is work the council of prud'hommes of Paris, where successive hearings in summary proceedings to claim payment of the balances of any account of the laid-off employees.
At his departure, Emilie* was offered a payment in three times, the first of which was... a cheque in the woods! She had to claim the other two to the prud'hommes, which were directed to R9 to honour its debts, as in many other folders. No effect: the bailiff dispatched to attempt a seizure on the accounts of the company Emilia has found the empty crates.
"I admit, trying to 'moratorier', repeats Nicholas Bianciotto. But after the convictions, it is the task of pay."
challenging methods of R9 does not date from today. Testimonials have been published from the end of 2013 on the forums of the site Categorynet.com, autour grievances addressed by The Express.
in The month of April last, R9 has attacked the site of defamation, as well as its web host OVH, to be relayed to an article in the magazine Strategy (owned, as The Express, the group Altice, Media, editor's NOTE) and of the evidence judged to be libellous. Categorynet, in which R9 is claiming two million euros, claims to have deleted from the texts in question.
The communication back
at the End of December, the employees of a publishing house in the auvergne, From Boreas, be mobilized to refuse the redemption of their business, the edge of the abyss, by R9. "We were surprised that they are the only candidates to promise to maintain the 65 positions, says an employee. We have searched the Internet and came across many testimonials that complained of their practices."
She and her colleagues fear that R9 does not want to sell out their stock of 2 million books, not help to straighten the bar. Nicolas Bianciotto claims to the contrary. By not selling all the stock, but "only" half, to get the cash.
"Our offer was deemed 'serious' and 'interesting' by the tribunal de commerce", he says. The recovery has been granted to the group Centre France, which promised yet to save only 15 items...
*The names have been changed
The 2 last may, R9 has launched a platform titled "R9truth", to end with the "R9 bashing". They involve four former managers that they suspect of wanting to "destroy the value of the work of the group and publish their names and photos. Accompanied by "evidence" intended to demonstrate their bad faith. In particular, we find decisions of justice, but also a recording of voice messages. Methods described by the leaders themselves to be very "touchy". One more time.
*The names have been changed