Scandalized French magnate Bernard Tapie dies at the age of 78 | France


Bernard Tapie, businessman, actor, former politician and former president of the Olympique de Marseille football club, whose larger-than-life career and recurring legal problems have made him one of the personalities most famous in France, died at the age of 78.

Tapie, who led Marseille to the Champions League title in 1993 and whose business interests also included a significant stake in German sportswear brand Adidas acquired in 1990, had suffered from stomach cancer for nearly five years.

“Dominique Tapie and her family are extremely sad to announce the death of her husband and their father, Bernard Tapie, this Sunday,” her family said in a statement to the newspaper La Provence, in which Tapie held a majority stake.

“He left peacefully, surrounded by his wife, his children and grandchildren, who were at his bedside,” the statement continued, specifying that Tapie wished to be buried in Marseille, “the city of his heart”.

Bernard Tapie with President François Mitterrand shaking hands with Marseille players in April 1986 during the Coupe de France final against Bordeaux at Parc des Princes stadium in Paris. Photograph: Philippe Bouchon / AFP / Getty Images

Emmanuel Macron expressed his condolences, saying that he and his wife Brigitte were “touched by the news of the death of Bernard Tapie, whose ambition, energy and enthusiasm have been a source of inspiration for generations of French”.

The president said Tapie had “a fighting spirit that could move mountains and bring down the moon … He never gave up.” A big sports fan, Tapie also had a cycling team which, supported by Bernard Hinault and Greg Lemond, twice won the Tour de France.

“I spoke with him by phone earlier this year. He said, ‘I’m hanging on. You have to fight, you have to believe, ”Hinault told Agence-France Presse on Sunday. “There are people who win and people who lose. He was among the first.

Olympique de Marseille, of which Tapie was president from 1986 to 1994, declared having learned “with deep sadness of the death of Bernard Tapie. He will leave a great void in the hearts of the Marseillais and will forever remain in the legend of the club.

Tapie arrives at the Paris courthouse for his trial in March 2019
Tapie arrives at the Paris courthouse for his trial in March 2019. Photography: Christophe Petit-Tesson / EPA

He guided OM to five consecutive French league victories and the 1-0 Champions League victory over AC Milan, the only time a French club won the trophy, but was then sent to prison for corruption in a first division match fixing scandal.

Born the son of a plumber in a difficult part of Paris in 1943, Tapie became one of the most successful and high profile businessmen in France, buying and reviving dozens of struggling businesses and reveling in its wealth with an American flair.

He also sang, releasing several pop records in the late 1960s as well as a 1985 issue titled Reussir Sa Vie, or Make a Success of your Life, and performed, assuming roles including that of Police Inspector in the popular television show Commissioner Valence and a role in a film by Claude Lelouch, and touched on politics.

Tapie gained national attention in a fierce debate with far-right Front National leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in 1989, and was elected Member of Parliament that year, ultimately serving two terms as minister of Urban affairs in the cabinet of Socialist President François Mitterrand in the early 1990s.

Tapie delivers a speech at a political campaign meeting in June 1994.
Tapie delivers a speech at a political campaign meeting in June 1994 Photograph: Charles Platiau / Reuters

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

But its success began to crumble in the mid-1990s, when trade issues and forensic investigations began to pile up. In 1993, he sold Adidas in what became the start of the longest and most complex of legal sagas in which he was involved.

The Adidas controversy – he would later call it the biggest of all the “stupid mistakes” of his career – lasted 20 years after he was forced to sell the company to state-owned bank Credit Lyonnais.

Marseille fans show their support for former club president Tapie in a Europa League match against Galatasaray last week.
Marseille fans show their support for former club president Tapie in a Europa League match against Galatasaray last week. Photograph: John Berry / Getty Images

Initially victorious in his claim that he had been cheated on the sale price, Tapie received 404 million euros in 2008. –President Nicolas Sarkozy, a longtime ally of Tapie.

A court later found Tapie guilty of fraud and ordered him to return the money, a decision he appealed against and on which a court is due to render its decision this week. Lagarde, now president of the European Central Bank, was convicted of negligence in 2016.

AFP and Reuters contributed to this report


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