French business mogul and former politician Bernard Tapie, whose larger-than-life career has been marked by a series of high-profile legal setbacks, has died aged 78 after a four-year battle with cancer, his family announced on Sunday.
Tapie, whose business interests included a stake in sportswear company Adidas, suffered from stomach cancer.
He was a former president of the Olympique de Marseille football club, which led him to the Champions League title in 1993. He was then sent to prison for corruption in a match-fixing scandal in the French first division.
“Olympique de Marseille 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, ”the club said in a statement.
French President Emmanuel Macron and First Lady Brigitte issued a statement calling the colorful Tapie a “golden legend” who was nonetheless beset by the many “shadows” of his legal sagas. “The man who had enough fighting spirit to move mountains and bring down the moon never laid down his arms, fighting cancer until his last moments,” the statement said, adding that the mark “of ambition, d Tapie’s ‘energy and enthusiasm’ had inspired ‘generations of The French’.
Prime Minister Jean Castex also paid tribute to Tapie, who had been government minister in the 1990s, calling him a “fighter”.
One of Tapie’s sons marked his death with an Instagram post saying “Goodbye, my Phoenix”.
“He left peacefully, surrounded by his wife, his children and grandchildren, who were at his bedside,” said the press release, specifying that he wished to be buried in Marseille, “the city of his heart,” wrote Stéphane. Lurking.
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. He also entered politics, becoming minister of urban affairs in the socialist government of François Mitterrand in the 1990s and later a member of the French and European parliaments.
Tapie began by selling televisions by day in the popular Belleville district of Paris while trying his hand at night crooning and driving. But he quickly gave up those early activities and amassed a small empire at the age of 30 by taking over struggling businesses, gaining 50 of them in a few years, and selling them for millions.
The permanently tanned mogul flaunted his newfound wealth by purchasing a sprawling Parisian townhouse and a series of mansions on the French Riviera as well as a 72-meter (236-foot) yacht.
“If there’s one thing I can do, it’s make dough,” he once boasted.
” I am broke “
Tapie also found time to act, drawing on the nightclub singing performances of his youth and taking on roles that included a police inspector on a popular TV show.
But his empire collapsed dramatically in the late 1990s, starting with the football match-fixing trial that saw him serving a prison sentence.
After a series of scandals and twists and turns, he was forced to admit in 2015 that “I’m broke. I have nothing “.
Tapie was also sued for his 1990 purchase of German sports brand Adidas, which he was forced to sell a few years later to state-owned bank Crédit Lyonnais. A 2008 arbitration commission estimated that he had been the victim of fraud because Crédit Lyonnais had undervalued Addidas at the time of the sale and awarded him 404 million euros in compensation.
The multimillion-euro prize sent shockwaves across France and was marred by allegations that the panel that acquitted him was biased in his favor amid questions about why the dispute was settled by arbitration rather than by a court.
Christine Lagarde, who was then Minister of the Economy, decided not to appeal the decision – a decision for which she was found guilty of negligence in 2016 by a court ruling on cases of ministerial misconduct.
Lagarde’s handling of the case has raised suspicions that his former boss Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Tapie had supported for president in 2007, was favorably disposed towards the businessman – allegations Sarkozy vehemently denied.
In 2017, Tapie was ordered to return the payment he received for the sale of Adidas, but then won an appeal. He was acquitted of fraud in this case in 2019.
Prosecutors eventually appealed and a new case was opened against Tapie. A court found him guilty of fraud over the arbitration settlement with the bank. An appeals court was due to render its decision on Wednesday.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP & REUTERS)