'Man Who Inspired Generations': French Business Magnate Bernard Tapie Dies Aged 78

© AFP 2022 / BERTRAND GUAYIn this file photo taken on April 4, 2019, French businessman Bernard Tapie looks on during a suspension of his trial for having defrauded the French state of nearly half a billion euros with a massive 2008 arbitration award, at the Paris courthouse.
In this file photo taken on April 4, 2019, French businessman Bernard Tapie looks on during a suspension of his trial for having defrauded the French state of nearly half a billion euros with a massive 2008 arbitration award, at the Paris courthouse.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 03.10.2021
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In 2018, Tapie was diagnosed with stomach and oesophagus cancer. He underwent treatment in France and Belgium, which reports say involved experimental techniques. Last year, he and his wife became victims of a violent burglary at their estate.
French business magnate Bernard Tapie has died at the age of 78, his family has announced. “He left peacefully, surrounded by his wife, his children, his grandchildren and his brother, present at his bedside”, read the statement sent to the La Provence newspaper, in which Tapie was a majority stakeholder. The family added that he wished to be buried in Marseille, "the city of his heart".
French celebrities, businessmen, and politicians have paid tribute to the late business magnate, including incumbent Prime Minister Jean Castex, French President Emmanuel Macron, and first lady Brigitte.

"The man who had enough fighting spirit to move mountains and take down the moon never laid down arms, fighting cancer until its last moments", read a statement released by the Macron family, adding that his "ambition, energy and enthusiasm" had inspired "generations of French people".

Larger-Than-Life

Born in 1943 in a working class Paris suburb, he sold TV sets during the day and sang at clubs at night. He was also a race car driver. In his mid-twenties, he started buying up bankrupt companies, rescued them, and then sold them. By the time he turned 30, he had amassed a small empire that later burgeoned over the years, making him one of France’s richest men.

It seemed that Tapie had the Midas touch – virtually all of his endeavours were successful. In 1986, he bought Olympique Lyonnais, which went on to win Ligue 1 four times and scooped up one of the most prestigious club trophies - UEFA’s Champions League - in 1993.
He also bought a cycling team, which became the winner of Tour de France twice.

On the back of his success in sports, he decided to try his hand at politics and was elected to the French parliament two times. He briefly served as minister for urban affairs under President Francois Mitterand, before becoming a member of the European Parliament.

In 1990, he purchased German sportswear giant Adidas, which was experiencing financial problems. He moved production to Asia and hired celebrities to promote the company, which bounced back from its troubles.

However, Tapie’s thirst for success came to haunt him just like king Midas’ desire for the golden touch. In the 1990s, he became the subject of several trials with accusations ranging from match-fixing to corruption, misuse of corporate assets, and tax fraud. The business magnate served time in prison.

The trials led to the collapse of his business empire and he declared bankruptcy. He then sold Adidas to another French business magnate, Robert-Louis-Dreyfus. That sale turned into another court saga.

Tapie sued state-owned bank Crédit Lyonnais, accusing it of undervaluing the company. In 2008, it seemed that his luck had returned, as the arbitration panel found that he had been the victim of fraud committed by the bank and awarded him $450 million in damages.

The news caused public outcry after reports suggested that the panel was biased in favour of the business magnate. Then-Finance Minister Christine Lagarde was later convicted of negligence because she had ordered Tapie’s case against Crédit Lyonnais to be heard in arbitration courts instead of proceeding through regular courts.

In 2017, a French court ordered Tapie to return the hefty payout he had received for the sale of Adidas, but he later won an appeal. However, prosecutors launched a new case, with the ruling scheduled for 6 October 2021.

During his court battles, Tapie rediscovered his passion for the arts. He played a police inspector on a popular French TV show, starred in the re-enactment of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", and in Claude Lelouch’s 1996 movie "Men, Women: A User's Manual", which won a Little Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

After his cancer diagnosis became public, he declared that he would "fight like he had always done".
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