PARIS. Bernard Tapie, a swaggering French businessman who throughout his life ranged from insane success to humiliation, knowing everything from high political office to his prison cell, died on October 3 in Paris. He was 78 years old.
According to his wife, Dominique Tapi, cancer was the cause. The ad appeared in La Provence, a newspaper Mr. Tapi owned in the southern French port city of Marseille, where he was loved for the extraordinary success he brought to the Olympique de Marseille football team after he bought it in 1986.
“He lived a thousand lives,” President Emmanuel Macron said in his message of condolences to the Tapi family, adding that “Mr. Tapi’s ambition, energy and enthusiasm have been an inspiration for generations of the French people.”
The president’s praise of a man who had been embroiled in legal trouble for decades and was jailed for five months in 1997 for his involvement in a soccer match-fixing scandal was a measure of the admiration shown by this once-pop singer and business tycoon. actor, sports impresario, television personality and leftist government minister. Mr. Tapi was many, but no less than irresistible.
His soccer team – OM, as it was called – was a paltry club in dire straits when Mr. Tapi took power, but through a combination of discernment and bragging rights, he led it to victory in the 1993 Champions League, Europe’s most coveted club competition. No other French team has won yet. Players who were groomed on his yacht or the private jet he piloted dubbed him “the boss.” He was everywhere – on the field, in the locker rooms – and they loved him.
It was typical of Mr. Tapie that, during the two years of triumph that politicians saw as a symbol of “winning France,” he was convicted of trying to bribe a player from Valenciennes to win the match. Sentenced to two years in prison, he served 165 days. OM fans didn’t care. “He will leave a huge void in the hearts of the people of Marseille,” tweeted about his death.
For Mr. Tapi, nothing was more than an insurmountable failure. He had the gift of talkativeness and soulful dark eyes, which somehow made all the words that poured out of him more authentic. In a country where power tends to be concentrated among elite high school graduates, Mr. Tapi, a self-righteous self-made man, has enjoyed continued success.
Bernard Tapie was born on January 26, 1943 in Paris to a working class family – his father was a milling machine operator and his mother was a nurse – and he had a hard time getting out of the harsh northern suburbs of the Seine. Saint Denis. The book he will write in 1986 was called Victory for a reason.
He started out as a singer with singles, including “I No Longer Believe in Girls” and “Quick, a Drink,” and dabbled in motorsport, but ended up in a coma after an accident, and then went into business with a small company in 1967. which sold televisions in eastern Paris.
This was followed by a home appliance venture, then something called Heart Assistance, which was supposed to provide instant help to people with heart disease with a handheld device that called an ambulance at the touch of a button.
Mr. Tapi was convicted in 1981 of fraudulent advertising; the company had two ambulances, maybe when they said there were five.
Around the same time, a French court ordered Mr Tapi to return four castles he had acquired for a pittance from the fallen self-proclaimed emperor of the Central African Republic, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, convincing him – falsely – that they were to be taken over by the French authorities.
Moving fast in his personal and professional life – he had two children from a short first marriage – Mr. Tapi specialized in rescuing and reselling troubled companies, from battery manufacturers to bicycle manufacturers. Gradually he made a fortune. His business career peaked in 1990 with the purchase of sportswear company Adidas.
However, as with many of his business adventures, Adidas came to chase Mr. Tapi. A long legal saga ensued involving the company, including the sale of its controlling stake to Credit Lyonnais in 1992, a lawsuit brought by Mr Tapi against the bank alleging that it had underpaid the company, and a payment awarded to Mr Tapi in the amount of 449 million dollars. in 2008 and the order to appeal for the payment of this amount in 2017. At the time of his death, the saga remained unsolved.
If anything, this legal agony ultimately drew sympathy for Mr Tapi, especially after he was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.
Besides his wife, Mr. Tapi is survived by two children from his first marriage, Natalie and Stefan; two children with his wife Laurent and Sophie; nine grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
Even in poor health, Mr. Tapi continued to give interviews. He always had the gift of communication, until his time he understood that in the modern era it matters like nothing else. Like former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Italy and then former President Donald Trump in the United States, he grabbed onto television to cement his prominence. In the mid-80s, he had his own TV show, Ambition. As a result, he did a lot to ensure that words such as “entrepreneurship” and “success” did not raise suspicion in France, which is always suspicious of the rich, regardless of whether they achieved it themselves.
These gifts drew his attention to President François Mitterrand, who asked to meet with Mr Tapie in 1987 and saw him as a showman who could communicate effectively with the left using simple, rude language. The 1989 debate between Mr Tapi and the anti-right-wing anti-immigrant leader Jean-Marie Le Pen remains legendary for Mr Tapi’s demolition of his opponent.
Speaking at a meeting of Le Pen’s National Front Party in 1992, Mr. Tapi, who was elected to parliament as the representative of Marseille in 1989, came up with the idea of capturing immigrants, loading them into a boat and sinking the boat off the coast. France. According to the story of the writer Andre Berkoff, thunderous applause followed.
Mr. Tapi calmly replied, “I was not wrong about you. I just talked about the massacre and you applauded. Tomorrow look at yourself in the mirror while you shave or paint and you just feel sick. “
Mitterrand appointed Mr Tapie as Minister of Urban Planning in 1992, but he had to resign 52 days later due to another legal problem. The case was settled in favor of Mr. Tapi and he returned to government in 1993, but the defeat of the left that same year ended his ministerial career.
There was still time for further endeavors, including Mr Tapi’s acquisition of La Provence. His acting career was revived with One One One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in Paris in the mid-1990s. Close to former President Nicolas Sarkozy, he became a frequent visitor to the Elysee Palace between 2007 and 2012. His opinions – on business and world affairs – were in demand and were covered even in the last years of his life.
“For the French to love you again, all you have to do is get sick,” commented Mr. Tapi. National mourning and a fair amount of flattery before his death seemed to prove him right.