Eclectic French tycoon Tapie has died aged 78

  • Former president of the Olympique de Marseille football club
  • Also former government minister
  • Professional career hit by legal problems
  • Sentenced to prison in 1995 for match-fixing

PARIS, October 3 (Reuters) – Bernard Tapie tells the life story of a failed pop singer-turned-mogul who entered politics, bought a prominent football club, and made a stint in prison has pierced France for decades.

He died Sunday at the age of 78, after suffering from stomach cancer in the last years of his life. Read more

Tapie was born in Paris in 1943, the son of a plumber, and came out of a poor suburban childhood to become one of the richest men in France and buy out the Olympique de Marseille football club. in 1986 and sports retailer Adidas in 1990.

He revived the struggling club to see them win their only Champions League title and five French championships.

At the same time, the solidly built man with thick, wavy black hair entered politics, infusing a touch of charisma among the gray-dressed technocrats of French politics and striking a chord among the youth and the working class.

He gained national attention in a smooth debate with then far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1989. The same year he was first elected lawmaker, the start a rise to the government cabinet of Socialist President François Mitterrand, where he served two terms as Minister of the Agglomeration in 1992-1993.

But things started to take a turn for the worse in the mid-1990s, when trade issues and forensic investigations started to pile up.

“I was rich, I’m not anymore. I was fashionable, I’m not anymore. I was president of a European Championship team, I’m not anymore. I ran companies, I am no longer, “he told the daily Le Figaro in September 1995.

“A lot of French people have more to complain about than I do.”

In 1995, Tapie was sentenced to prison for match-fixing while he was at the head of Olympique de Marseille.

Two years earlier, he sold Adidas in what has become the start of the longest and most complex of legal sagas in which he has been involved.

This Adidas saga had known more than 20 years of investigations and decisions, with abrupt twists some in his favor, others against him. Tapie claimed that when the former French state bank Crédit Lyonnais sold the stake on his behalf, the bank made a profit at his expense.

The eclectic mogul also tried his hand at acting, playing in a Claude Lelouch film in 1996, at a time when he had just been declared bankrupt. And he became a newspaper owner in 2012, buying local newspapers in the south of France.

Tapie also released pop records in the late 1960s with a 1985 song called “Reussir Sa Vie”.

Tapie created the La Vie Claire cycling team, and while he was still involved, team star cyclists Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond won the Tour de France in 1985 and 1986 respectively.

“When you won the Tour de France, the Champions League, you were a minister, singer, actor … what didn’t I do? I can’t say that I didn’t been spoiled rotten by life, “he said. Le Monde said in an interview in 2017.

Editing by Richard Lough and Frances Kerry

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