Hachette's pioneer mass market label, Livre de Poche, whose first books were published nearly half a century ago, will soon have a co-owner. Beginning January 1, 2000, France's largest independent press, Albin Michel, will acquire 20% of the reprint house, raising the investment to 40% in January 2003.

Still a family company-CEO Francis Esmenard is the grandson of the founder-Albin Michel was the only major independent without a paperback line of its own. With a backlist of 6000 titles, it publishes 380 new titles a year and reports more than $200 million in sales. Livre de Poche releases some 350 books a year. Its parent house, Hachette, is France's second largest publishing group.