French tycoon, politician, actor and thug – .

French tycoon, politician, actor and thug – .

Paris (AFP)

The larger-than-life French business mogul Bernard Tapie, who died Sunday at the age of 78, was a symbol of the best and the worst of free market capitalism.

His swashbuckling career spanned business, sports, politics and the arts, but also scandal and prison.

Tapie, who revealed in 2017 that he had cancer of the stomach and esophagus, made a colossal fortune, lost it and then regained it, eventually ending his busted life following a scandal which involved Christine Lagarde, today at the head of the European Central. Bank.

“If there’s one thing I can do, it’s make dough,” the permanently tanned mogul once boasted.

But in 2015, he was forced to admit, “I’m broke. I have nothing. “

Like many of his flamboyant statements, this had to be taken with a pinch of salt – although he did indeed descend to his last mansions.

– Company Raider –

Born in occupied Paris on January 26, 1943, Tapie started out modestly, selling televisions by day to the Belleville working class while trying his hand at crooning at night.

But he quickly gave up singing and amassed a small empire at the age of 30 by taking over struggling businesses, recovering 50 in a matter of years.

In 1990, he made headlines when he bought German sportswear giant Adidas, a purchase that would later come back to haunt him.

He flaunted his 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.

Bernard Tapie broke French taboos on money with a gleeful desire to show off his wealth BILL SWERSEY AFP / File

A sports fan with a boxer’s build, Tapie also used his fortune to buy a cycling team that has won the Tour de France twice.

In 1986, he bought one of France’s most beloved football clubs, Olympique de Marseille, guiding the team to five successive league triumphs and the Champions League title in 1993.

Building on this success, he forged a political career, winning elections to the French Parliament in 1989 and 1993 and becoming a Member of the European Parliament in 1994 after briefly serving as Minister under President François Mitterrand.

– Disgrace –

But things started to take a turn for the worse for the father-of-four as he faced a plethora of legal issues, including match-fixing charges during his time in Marseille.

A series of legal troubles cost Bernard Tapie his fortune and several months in prison ERIC FEFERBERG AFP / File

The claims marred the team’s Champions League victory – the only time a French club has won the trophy.

Players from a small club have revealed that they have accepted bribes to relax in Marseille during a match before the Champions League final.

Tapie served six months in prison in 1997 for his role in the scandal, part of which was in solitary confinement.

The case led to the collapse of his business empire, and he was declared bankrupt and banned from serving as a business manager or in any public office.

– Bounce back –

His friends and family have described him as a broken man, but his old skills in showbiz have helped him bounce back and turn to acting, most notably in a popular TV series he starred in – without no irony – a police inspector.

And his streak of luck appears to have returned in 2008 when a government arbitration panel admitted that he had been a victim of fraud in the sale of Adidas in 1993, ruling that the brand had been undervalued.

He received an indemnity of 404 million euros ($ 450 million), the size of which sent shockwaves across France.

Tapie paid off his debts and was able to buy the French publishing group Hersant, a series of properties and another yacht, which he named “Reborn”.

But the case was appealed and in May 2017 a court ordered him to refund the payment – and he was broke again.

The saga also trapped Lagarde, who was French Minister of the Economy when the panel ruled in favor of Tapie and was accused of mismanaging the case.

After his cancer became public, Tapie said he “would fight like he always had”.

“The idea of ​​dying doesn’t bother me at all,” he told Le Monde. You would have to be “crazy not to be happy with my life”.

In July 2019, he was acquitted of state fraud charges in the controversial arbitration case. However, he was not out of the woods yet as a new case was brought against him.

This trial began in May with Tapie already seriously ill in hospital and prosecutors demanding a five-year sentence and a fine of 300,000 euros. The judges were due to deliver their verdict on October 6.


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