French mogul, politician and former Adidas and football club owner Bernard Tapie dies

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
French business mogul, politician and former Adidas and football club owner Bernard Tapie dies
French business mogul, politician and former Adidas and football club owner Bernard Tapie dies
BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images
  • French mogul Bernard Tapie died on Sunday following a years-long battle with cancer.
  • A dispute around his purchase of Adidas led to Christine Lagarde, now president of the European Central Bank, being convicted of negligence
  • He bought the Olympique de Marseille football club in 1986, and later spent eight months in prison for rigging a domestic French match just before a European final


Bernard Tapie, the European Cup-winning soccer club president whose dispute over Adidas led to Christine Lagarde, now president of the European Central Bank, being convicted of negligence, has died. He was 78. Tapie died Sunday following a years-long battle with cancer, his family said in a statement to La Provence newspaper. He had earlier expressed his wish to be buried in Marseille. 

President Emmanuel Macron was one of many to pay tribute to Tapie. 

"Praised to the skies by some, dragged through the mud by others, he was as unsettling as he was fascinating, because he straddled every obstacle on his path to success," Macron said in a statement.  

Tapie, at the time a soccer club owner, bought struggling sports apparel giant Adidas in 1990 for about 1.6 billion francs. In 1992, the businessman couldn’t pay the interest on the loan from Credit Lyonnais that he had used to finance the purchase. The bank converted Tapie’s debt into equity in Adidas. Tapie claimed that he was defrauded when the lender then sold Adidas to Robert-Louis Dreyfus. He went bankrupt in November 1994.

Lagarde was convicted of negligence by a Paris court in 2016, avoiding a fine or prison time for her handling of the case while French finance minister under then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007. Judges found that she should have challenged an arbitration award of 285 million euros ($330 million) made to Tapie, which was subsequently cut to zero.

"Bernard Tapie lived to the end with his passion intact, an unshakable energy, and a great empathy for people," Sarkozy said on Twitter. "Throughout his cruel illness, he gave everyone a lesson in courage and dignity."

Olympique Marseille

Bernard Tapie was born on January 26, 1943, to Jean and Raymonde Tapie in the Le Bourget suburb to the north of Paris. His father, conscripted by the occupying Nazis for compulsory labor, worked after the war as a machine operator in a refrigerator factory. His mother was a nurse. 

The young Tapie tried his hand at pop singing and car racing before building his fortune in the 1980s buying up distressed companies for resale.

He purchased the Olympique de Marseille soccer club in 1986. As president, Tapie bought players like Fabien Barthez, Marcel Desailly and Chris Waddle to secure the first European Cup won by a French team, in 1993. He later spent eight months in prison for rigging a domestic French match just before the European final. The club was punished with relegation to the second division.

Backed by President Francois Mitterrand, Tapie won a seat in Marseille in the legislative election of 1988. His willingness to confront National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in a series of televised debates, at a time when other, more established politicians refused to do so, was credited with hampering Le Pen’s political ambitions. 

Mitterrand was impressed enough to make Tapie minister for urban affairs in 1992. Yet Tapie never became part of the Socialist establishment, and later backed Sarkozy.

“The first image that comes to mind, is one of a fighter, for his ideas and his beliefs. He was always very committed against the far right but above all for his good causes, his club, his town, his business too,” French Prime Minister Jean Castex said in comments to the media. 

In 1970 Tapie left his first wife, Michele Layec, with whom he had two children, Nathalie and Stephane. He married to Dominique Mialet-Damianos, his former secretary, in 1987, and had two more children, Sophie and Laurent. 

Tapie announced in September 2017 that he had been diagnosed with stomach cancer. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
18.01
-1.3%
Rand - Pound
20.11
+0.1%
Rand - Euro
17.64
-0.4%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.55
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-1.0%
Gold
1,713.07
-0.2%
Silver
20.66
+0.1%
Palladium
2,253.50
-0.2%
Platinum
925.00
+0.3%
Brent-ruolie
93.37
+1.7%
Top 40
59,416
+0.4%
All Share
65,833
+0.3%
Resource 10
63,279
-0.6%
Industrial 25
80,027
+1.0%
Financial 15
13,997
+0.3%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE
Government tenders

Find public sector tender opportunities in South Africa here.

Government tenders
This portal provides access to information on all tenders made by all public sector organisations in all spheres of government.
Browse tenders