Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

AFRICA NEWS

Virunga Park chief shot

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algerian election: Bouteflika votes in wheelchair

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Algeria's media: a mixture of censorship and free speech

Read more

DEBATE

Algeria: What's the Choice? Incumbent Bouteflika Votes in Wheelchair

Read more

WEB NEWS

Nigerian web users call for end to violence

Read more

FOCUS

Bitcoin in the US: A monetary revolution?

Read more

ENCORE!

Fast cars and slow trains

Read more

WEB NEWS

Chile: online mobilization to help Valparaiso fire victims

Read more

FACE-OFF

François Hollande: France's most unpopular president

Read more

  • Russia and West agree on steps to ease Ukraine crisis

    Read more

  • Low turnout in Algerian election tipped to return Bouteflika

    Read more

  • Hundreds still trapped in sunken South Korea ferry

    Read more

  • Nobel-winning Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez dies at 87

    Read more

  • Deadly attack on civilians sheltering in UN base in South Sudan

    Read more

  • With a strong French presence, veterans and fresh faces, Cannes aims to please

    Read more

  • Eurostar train delay "chaos"

    Read more

  • Chelsea Clinton says she is pregnant

    Read more

  • French troops free five aid workers kidnapped in Mali by Islamists

    Read more

  • In pictures: Iranian woman pardons son’s killer at the gallows

    Read more

  • After cup defeat, Spanish pundits read last rites for Barcelona

    Read more

  • India heads to polls in single largest day of voting

    Read more

  • Ukraine talks open in Geneva as Putin talks tough on TV

    Read more

  • Pro-Russian separatists killed in attack on Black Sea base

    Read more

  • Man executed in Texas for 2002 triple murder

    Read more

  • Scandal-hit French doctor Jacques Servier dies at 92

    Read more

  • Belgian head of wildlife reserve shot in DR Congo

    Read more

  • Crunch talks on Ukraine begin in Geneva

    Read more

  • Stagehand of God? Maradona's legendary goal inspires a play

    Read more

  • US rolls out red carpet for French critic of capitalism

    Read more

  • N. Korea not amused by London hair salon's Kim Jong-un ad

    Read more

  • Real Madrid beat old foes Barcelona to lift Copa del Rey

    Read more

  • France's new PM targets welfare in drive to cut spending

    Read more

  • Campaigning against Bouteflika's re-election... in France

    Read more

  • Brazil club Mineiro cancel Anelka signing after no-show

    Read more

France

Notorious French millionaire Tapie risks it all, again

© Photo: AFP

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2013-01-25

French businessman Bernard Tapie has surprised France by acquiring one of the country’s most important regional press groups. Will the new venture pay off for the man who once went from high office to a jail cell?

The controversial French businessman Bernard Tapie is back in headlines after buying out one of the country’s most important regional newspapers this week, a move that has raised suspicion over the man’s new business and political agenda.

On Thursday, France learned that the 69-year-old Tapie, a onetime cabinet minister who amassed a massive fortune in the 1980s only to lose it all, was part of a business deal worth 50 million euros that will give him control over some of southern France’s most widely circulated newspapers, notably the Marseille daily La Provence.

Tapie is famous in France for his past high-profile and high-risk investments, his political ambitions, and for questionable practices that landed him behind bars. However, he has never shown interest in the print news industry before, forcing many to speculate as to whether his new acquisition is not a stepping stone into Marseille’s mayoral office.

A rollercoaster ride

While he once harboured ambitions to become a professional race car driver and a singer, Tapie first gained recognition for taking over and saving failing French companies. His strategy included renegotiating debts and diversifying business, but especially and more controversially, slashing jobs.

He amassed one of the largest French fortunes in the 1980s, buying in 1986 Olympique de Marseille (OM), one of France’s oldest and best football clubs, and taking over the sporting goods company Adidas by the end of the decade.

Lured into politics, he pulled off a surprise election victory in 1989 to become a French MP representing Marseille. Three years later he agreed to sell off holdings, including the Adidas brand, in order to accept a job as a cabinet minister in the Socialist government of president François Mitterrand. But his ministry career would be short-lived, ending in 1993 with an election defeat for the left.

As a politician Tapie added to his visibility as a fierce critic of far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, directly confronting the anti-immigration firebrand when others preferred avoiding him publicly. Nevertheless, his business background won him few friends on the French left.

In 1996 he was convicted on charges of coercing a witness to lie about match rigging in a case involving OM football club; a sentence that forced him to step down as an MP and to spend 12 months in prison.

The match rigging scandal relegated OM to France’s second-tear division and bankrupted Tapie. He emerged from jail penniless and tried to rebuild his career by writing books and hosting TV shows, but with limited success.

However, in 2008 a French court awarded Tapie 285 millions euros in a convoluted 13-year trial over the irregular sale and purchase of Adidas. Effectively, the ruling re-launched the businessman that had once lost everything.

The right investment?

Part of the cash award from the “Adidas affair”, as the case is known in France, has enabled Tapie to now buy the influential regional newspapers. Doubting he will be satisfied - or interested - in directing a newsroom, many in France are wondering what the lifelong entrepreneur’s next move will be.

Observers in the French media say Tapie will also likely face a string of challenges. At the newspapers, the new boss could face stiff opposition from journalists who are well aware that layoffs were his original field of expertise.

Indeed, on Thursday many media outlet pounced on the opportunity to publish one of Tapie’s most infamous quotes: “Why buy a newspaper when you can buy journalists?”

And if he does hope to use his newfound position of influence to make a run for city hall in 2014, he will run into an army of political opponents. The mainstream left and right already have their candidates virtually picked, according to the respected Rue89 online news site.

The far-right and far-left have lost no time in attacking Tapie over his latest purchase. The far-right National Front accused Tapie of being in bed with both the ruling Socialists and the conservative opposition UMP party, and of “masking” his “evident” political plans. France’s Communist party said “La Provence, Marseille and its people have good reason to worry” in a statement in which it warned that in the course of his career Tapie had “eliminated more jobs than he created.”

Tapie’s new venture is indeed a big gamble. The question, as so often has been in case in his life, is whether it will lead to a big payoff or bury him.

Date created : 2012-12-20

Comments

COMMENT(S)