About PDV and PDL

In 2009, a holding company owned by the American Donald Levin, bought out the Bolloré group’s paper manufacturing activities from two companies:

  • Papeteries du Léman (PDL), which has 280 employees near Évian-les-Bains, manufactures cigarette paper and thin printing paper for documents such as catalogues, the Bible, the Koran, Francis Lefebvre mementos, La Pleiade book collection, etc.
  • Papeteries des Vosges (PDV), which has 140 employees, specialises in the manufacture of paper for pharmaceutical leaflets.
Mission context and objectives

Overall, the two companies have been making losses since 2010 and in 2014 had a consolidated turnover of EUR 117 million and a consolidated loss of EUR (2.3) million. Fine paper manufacturers have been affected by the rapid decline of most types of catalogues with almost 25% of their global market disappearing in ten years. In this highly capital-intensive industry, all the paper mills concerned seek to fill their production capacity by undercutting prices, thereby collectively destroying their respective business models.

In September 2014, Prospheres Dirigeants was appointed President and CEO of each of these 2 companies to review the business strategy and ensure the sustainability of the companies, which the shareholder did not wish to refinance indefinitely. The shareholder’s primary expectation was reliable forecasts from a leader who faced up to reality and was capable to assume the consequences, however painful they may be. In short, trust is the primary concern of the assignment.

Success and transformation

A precise diagnosis of the sources of value creation and value destruction, systematically carried out with the support of Prospheres dirigeants through a complete MRI of performance, combined with a detailed analysis of the markets served by each of the 2 companies, led to:

  • withdrawal from the cigarette paper market,
  • two strategic gambles with full transparency to the shareholder on associated costs and risks of these bets,
  • development of a baking paper product range,
  • organisational improvements to enhance the performance of the 4 paper machines,
  • following the necessary improvements, increased sales prices, even if risking a loss of volume. As a result of these price revisions, a significant customer defaulted but chose Papeteries des Vosges et du Léman again a year later.

In line with its managerial philosophy of subsidiarity and individual responsibility for the common good, Prospheres dirigeants has implemented the following changes:

  • each machine has become a business unit in its own right, controlled by a manager responsible for its profitability. In such a set-up, the salesperson must obtain approval from the machine operator before entering into a commercial agreement,
  • the 2 factories jointly chose the functions they wished to combine, such as sales administration for example,
  • the Executive Committee was reorganised and reduced from 15 to 5 people, in order to facilitate decision-making closer to the action.

Following the turnaround, Prospheres dirigeants gradually withdrew from the general management of these two companies while retaining the non-executive presidency at the request of the shareholder. To succeed us in these positions, Prospheres dirigeants promoted 2 directors already present in the companies before its arrival.

In 2020, PDV and PDL achieved a consolidated turnover of EUR 117 million and a solid positive operating profit of EUR 6.6 million to ensure the self-financing of their investments and the sustainability of their activities.