Bernard Tapie, French Businessman and Soccer Club President, Dies at 78

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Beloved of Marseille fans and surrounded by legal battles, Mr Tapi was a feature of French sport, business, politics and entertainment for decades.

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French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a condolence message to his family, “They took a thousand lives.” Mr Macron said Mr Tapi’s “ambition, energy and enthusiasm were a source of inspiration for generations of French.”

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Mr Tapi’s wife, Dominique, and their two children announced his death to the Marseille newspaper La Provence, which he owned. Mr Tapi was battling cancer, which was diagnosed in 2017.

The family statement said Mr Tapi wanted to be buried in “the city of his heart” Marseille. He was admired there by fans of the city’s football club, which count Mr Macron among his supporters. The club tweeted That “he will leave a great void in the hearts of the people of Marseille.”

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Mr Tapi’s popularity peaked during the 1980s and 90s when, as club president, he guided Marseille to victory in the 1993 Champions League. Marseille is the only French club to have won the Showcase Club competition of European football.

Mr. Tappy was extremely demanding of his players but also close to them. His star recruits included dazzling winger Enzo Francescoli, brutal finisher Rudy Voeller and central defender Carlos Moser. Long before the days of social networks and camera phones, Mr. Tapi would be filmed opening champagne with his players in the dressing room after a big win.

Players were devoted to him and played electrifying attacking football lighting up stadiums in France and abroad.

Marseille won five French league titles between 1989–93 and a league and French Cup double in 1989. But the 1993 title was snatched away due to the match-fixing scandal and Marseille was taken to another level. Players from league rival Valenciennes were paid to throw a game, with a lump sum buried in a player’s garden. Mr. Tapi was convicted of match rigging and was jailed for more than five months. Marseille was not able to defend its European crown.

However, Marseille fans continued to like Mr. Tapi. Fans put bouquets of flowers on Mr Tapi’s portrait outside the club’s stadium on Sunday.

Nicknamed “Nanar”, Mr. Tapi started his career as a singer and made his fortune by buying struggling companies. He was a familiar figure for decades, known for his tailored suits and wide lower jaw.

A versatile businessman, Mr. Tapi was also an actor who seemed comfortable on the stage of the Paris Theater and in the limelight as a politician. A frequent television appearance, Mr. Tappy became a celebrity with his excesses, successes and failures, which led to bankruptcy and legal battles.

Mr. Tapi was born in 1943 in Paris. After a short and unsuccessful stint as a pop singer, Mr. Tappy considered pursuing a career in auto racing, before a serious accident left him in a coma.

He sold TVs and then specialized in recovery and resale companies. One of the first businesses Mr. Tapi bought was battery maker Leclanche Wonder.

His masterstroke came in 1990 when he bought the German sporting goods company Adidas, a move that also proved to be his downfall.

Mr Tapi, who briefly served as Minister of City Affairs under the late French President François Mitterrand and was a member of the French Parliament for several years, acquired his majority stake in Adidas in 1992 through the French bank Credit Lyonnais. sold. Mr Tapi then claimed the deal was mismanaged and a 20-year legal battle began with the bank in an attempt to claim damages.

In 2017, an appeals court ordered him to pay €404 million ($449 million) for the disputed sale of the company in 2008.

Mr. Tappy’s immense appetite for enterprise also led him to pursue sports beyond football. He managed star cyclists Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond to victory in the Tour de France with the La Vie Claire team.

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