Move over Plantu, cartoonist and scourge of the French establishment. Make way for Thierry Henry, footballer and scourge of English premiership defences.

For years, Plantu has caricatured France's rich and powerful on the front page of the heavyweight national daily newspaper, Le Monde.

Yesterday, however, in a move which would have horrified generations of leftwing French intellectuals, the cartoonist was asked to share his perch with a colour picture of Thierry Henry, Arsenal's highly rated striker.

The reason? Le Monde, a blue stocking on French news stands and compulsory reading for anybody who wants to be thought somebody among France's chattering classes is seeking a lighter, brighter image. Forget the sometimes impenetrable elitism. Le Monde is seeking to woo a younger, cooler audience.

The paper, in which just over half the shares are owned by the staff, has launched its new look as part of preparations for a stock market listing.

Quite when is not clear. What's important is to ensure that the legalities are in place and the business is in good shape, according to editor Jean-Marie Colombani in a weekend article. After that, it's a question of when circumstances permit.

The betting is that Le Monde will list up to 25% of its shares on the bourse. Mr Colombani said it was hoping to raise about €100m (£62m), a level which he reckons will make it financially self-sufficient.

The new look Le Monde is cleaner and simpler than before, using a slightly more modern typeface for its headlines and using more space and colour than its predecessor, which at times seemed impossibly dense.

The paper is hoping the new design - which has cost a total of €7m - will bring in between 15,000 and 20,000 new readers, lifting its daily circulation to above 400,000.

It would certainly not upset the paper's legendary founder, Hubert Beuve-Méey, a man so rigorous in his approach to Le Monde's mission that he forbade anybody to sit down during editorial meetings for fear of wasting time.



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