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L'industrie du troisième millénaire

  in LYON-INTERNATIONAL Magazine, Spring 2002


Press Index



Nutrisco et Extinguo - Abode of Chaos
Caricaturing himself, Erhmann is neither a wizard nor a guru but a deeply committed contemporary entrepreneur and probably a visionary in his own business field.

A hint of Citizen Kane surrounds the Serveur group Chairman. Information-hungry, he makes hard-hitting comments about present-day social behaviour. For him, economics is not only about money!

Thierry Ehrmann's strength was a simple idea, nourished by hours spent in reading and analysis. Basically, he searches public records, document libraries, official reports and legal publications to mine raw data which he then processes, organises, enhances and publishes to wide audiences in a host of databanks. The European directive issued on March 11, 1996, even gave him the specific right, known as sui generis to protect the contents of his databases from appropriation by competitors or end users.

Founded in 1987, the Serveur Group now has thirteen subsidiaries, tvvo of which are quoted, and ten minority interests. The product is over 90 usable data banks and sales of approximately 73 million euros in 2001 (479 MFRF) for a payroll of 400 people all over the wor d. The top money-spinners in this beautiful information industry are, the “Legal" Server and the “Administration” Server. The latter two are vital for Europe’s lawyers and lawmakers, and the first is the world’s most biggest price data bank for paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, posters and photographs... The prices for over 180,000 artists are updated all the time - and a million biographies. All this data is for sale. For Thierry Ehrmann “free information is a here-sy". But these are just a start. A “data trader", he is currently finalising a wine database and dreams of buying the press assets of Drouot (the French Sotheby’s) - the “Gazette de I’Hôtel Drouet”, the “Moniteur des Ventes” and their web portal.

He is currently negotiating the flotation of his whole Group on the Stock Exchange and expects to raise 120 to 150 million euros. The financial institutions who until recently did not take him seriously, are now paying attention. For Louis Thannberger, French ULS Manitou, Thierry Ehrmann is quite simply someone with " a huge future, who will peak in less than three years".

Thierry Ehrmann’s problem is very simple. He always has some comment on the world he sees under his microscope. News-hungry he spends three hours on the papers each and every morning in his favourite bistro. Opinions about him differ. He is thought to be very left wing because he has two portraits of Mao in his fiefdom in Saint-Romain-au-Mont-d’Or. He is said to be very right wing because of some quotes taken out of context. Youthful, smiling, usually dressed in black he seems friendly and honest. He rushes you through the old coachin inn in which he has his bee-hive offices full of young people feeding insatiable data banks and as many beautiful works of art as computers! You cross the garden which, apart from the portrait of Mao in the open air under a gallery, probably in a cultural rectification phase, is quite ordinary. You enter, on the ground floor of the family home, an old barn transformed into a vast black, black, black, office. Even the tables and partitions are black. We discuss “Alors” the monthly news and culture magazine he recently launched. He says “cultural bracket” and reverts to his main business. “Above all we are information historians because we do not know how to write three lines of our database contents. We look for deep data sources which we update before publishing them on the network”. He speaks amazingly quickly, sprinkling his words with cyber strip cartoon sauce and legal jargon as he says he is ready to litigate to defend his profession. Caricaturing himself, Erhmann is neither a wizard nor a guru but a deeply committed contemporary entrepreneur and probably a visionary in his own business field. Far from limiting himself to break-even points, he worries about sea-changes in society “since the horse of history bolted” on September 11. Comments reporters love.

by Nancy Furer © 2002 LYON-INTERNATIONAL Magazine