Eclectic French Tycoon Bernard Tapie Dies At 78
Bernard Tapie's rags-to-riches life story of a failed pop singer-turned-tycoon who dabbed into politics bought a top soccer club and did a stint in jail transfixed France for decades. He died on Sunday aged 78, having suffered from stomach cancer in the final years of his life, Ingrid Melander reported for Reuters.
Photo Insert: The controversial Bernard Tapie
Tapie was born in Paris in 1943, the son of a plumber, and pulled himself out of a poor suburban childhood to become one of France's richest men and buy Olympique de Marseille football club in 1986 and sports retailer Adidas in 1990. He revived the ailing club to see it win its only Champions League title and five French championships.
At the same time, the solidly-built man with thick, dark wavy hair entered politics, injecting a touch of charisma amid the grey-suited technocrats of French politics and touching a chord among young people and the working class.
He grabbed national attention in a no-punches-pulled debate with the then-leader of the far-right, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 1989.
That same year he was elected lawmaker for the first time, the start of an ascent towards the cabinet of Socialist President Francois Mitterrand's government, where he did two stints as minister for urban areas in 1992-1993.
But things started unraveling in the mid-1990s when business woes and judicial probes started piling up. "I was rich, I am no longer. I was fashionable, I am no longer. I was president of a European championship team, I am no longer. I ran businesses, I no longer do so," he told Le Figaro daily in September 1995.
"Many French people have more to complain about than do I." In 1995, Tapie was sentenced to jail for match-fixing during his time at the helm of Olympique de Marseille.
Two years earlier, he sold Adidas in what became the start of the longest and most complex of the judicial sagas he was involved in.
That Adidas saga had seen more than 20 years of probes and rulings, with abrupt twists some in his favor, some against him. Tapie had claimed that when former French state bank Credit Lyonnais had sold the stake on his behalf, the bank had made a gain at his expense.