Bernard Tapie Is Back

photo: abelard restaurant, left bank

The Abelard Restaurant in the Latin Quarter.

M & S Workers Score Point

Paris:- Monday, 9. April 2001:- Today there is joy in Marseille. Bernard Tapie has returned to take over the ailing soccer club Olympic Marseille, or OM as it is generally called..

Bernard Tapie ran OM as an almost private fief from 1986 to 1994 when he crashed in flames as a result of being charged and convicted of many many crimes - mostly a shopping bag full of economic misdemeanors involving billions of francs.

He has served his time and now he is on the loose again. A consortium of creditors is still after him, including his main tormentor, Crédit Lyonnais. They are attempting to collect billions of francs. Tapie, technically bankrupt, says they owe him something like six billion.

Besides getting OM back on the tracks as a winning division one football club, Bernard Tapie has some scores to settle, which he has promised to do.

However this is only the beginning. To bring you up to speed, here are some items that appeared earlier in Metropole:

Bernard Tapie is Too Busy to Go to Jail

Saturday, 25. January 1997:-A court of appeals in Douai has said once and for all that the industrialist Bernard Tapie must go to jail, while it thinks about the appeal of his conviction on charges of corruption and interfering with witnesses - for which he has been sentenced to two years, with 16 months suspended, leaving eight months of hard-time.

Mr. Tapie's lawyers are pleading for his remaining free while the appeals court makes up its mind; saying that he hasn't yet missed a court date, and he has had a lot of them lately.

Apparently an unknown US company wants to hire Mr. Tapie as a 'consultant.' He has also recently taken up acting in movies, and one is planned to shoot in the near future - called 'Fifi Martingale.' There is another film in the works as well as a TV-series. In addition he has a contract withphoto: latin quarter, sunday a book publisher to describe the very 'affair' for which he has been condemned, and the manuscript is due in four months.

Sunday's one ray of sunshine in the Latin Quarter.

The wardens at both the jail in Douai and the Santé in Paris have been alerted to expect Mr Tapie on Monday, 3. February. Mr. Tapie has a choice of jails: in the district where he was convicted, or in the district where the appeals court sits. But once inside, he stays there until the appeals court makes up its mind. If the appeal is rejected, he is then nailed to where he is.

However it seems as if he can also choose not to show up at either jail. If this is the case, the appeals court will note his absence and refuse to consider the appeal - which would effectively condemn him definitively to the eight months' term - but would leave him outside the walls in semi-freedom, free to pursue negotiations with judicial authorities in Paris, as he did last spring in Marseille.

As you might gather from this, Mr. Tapie has a couple of legal problems.

As an industrialist, he was not a member of France's 'elite.' He had - borrowed - venture capital to throw into failing companies and he had the drive to get them back on their feet. Besides other enterprises, he had the battery company 'Wonder' and he bought 'Adidas' when it was down. Finally he had a great big boat. But, perhaps worst of all, he is not shy.

He ran the football club Olympic Marseille to the top of the league and he ran for office at local, national and European levels and won - against Le Pen's National Front, but also against the conservative majority parties. Mr. Tapie made money, made jobs, won games and got his name in the paper often for going good deeds, or for simply saying, 'Let's do it.'

Along the way he collected more than a couple of blackballs from the establishment. Phone calls were made, conversations were held in restaurants and then state-owned Crédit Lyonnais called in its paper - loaned to Tapie to acquire Adidas - and Mr. Tapie's empire crumbled - and with the help of charges of fixing games for Olympic Marseilles, the whole thing became unglued. One of the charges he is either facing or has been convicted of, is bankruptcy.

Crédit Lyonnais - do you recall how they ended up owning MGM? - has been bailed out by the French taxpayer about three times now, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, and I am not aware that anybody in charge of it has been charged with anything.

The prosecutors are restive though and we may not have to wait long for more 'big-hats' to fall. The 'judicial reforms,' as proposed this week by President Jacques Chirac, got off to a good start Tuesday as a 21 member Justice Commission was called into action. 'Presumption of innocence' is expected to be a primary candidate for reinforcement. Note:This measure became law in France on 1. January 2001.

Tapie On Trial, Again

Saturday, 17. May 1997:- France's most interesting entrepreneur, Bernard Tapie, spent most of last week in the old courthouse in Marseille; instead of in jail or at the job he has as a boat broker when he is not in jail.

As far as I can figure out, Mr. Tapie has been accused of giving somebody five million francs of un-taxed money. He has not been charged with corruption; rather the charge is 'abus de biens sociaux.' This is a popular charge at the moment, even if nobody quite knows what it means - so it is perfectly suitable in this case.

Mr. Tapie was the owner and boss of the football club, Olympic Marseille. This was in addition to his main job as chief of the Bernard Tapie International Worldwide Corporation - or whateverphoto: fiat 500 its exact name is - or was. Mr. Tapie was also involved in politics; he generally ran for the socialists as a populist-leftist-Tycoon-Magnate - and as such was a national deputy as well as a member of the European Parliament.

This week's first 'Fiat 500 of the Week.'

Lately, Mr. Tapie has been having a series of judicial problems and he currently serving time on one conviction - except that he is allowed to have a day job, and I believe, he also gets weekends off.

The present court case is about football financing. Sitting in the dock in Marseille with Mr. Tapie are 19 others, and there are international warrants outstanding against a few no-shows. Enormous sums of money have apparently been paid to football players, the clubs that own their contracts, and the middlemen involved in all these deals.

The middlemen are interesting. They get commissions for selling a player, and they can get commissions for keeping their nose out of deals.

Mr. Tapie claims he put 54 million francs of his own money into Olympic Marseilles. In a week's worth of reporting by Le Parisien about the trial, I can't figure out where these vast sums have come from. The issue, however, seems to be more about where they went - was the '600,000' actually paid to Mr. XYZ, or was it a device to escape taxes and place the money beyond the jurisdiction of French tax authorities?

The Tapie corporation operated in 75 countries; so he had no need of these, almost transparent, transactions. As far as the football goes, Tapie is saying that everybody does it - huge under-table payments, fake invoices, payments to fake people even. This may be true, but the entire French football management is not on trial with Mr. Tapie in Marseille.

This brings me around to the charge itself - 'abus de biens sociaux.' I think this means 'abuse of corporate funds,' but you can substitute 'association,' 'organization,' or 'society' for corporate. As legal entities, these formations have a stated purpose; and if their funds are used for some other purpose, it is an 'abuse,' and is illegal.

As a populist, a politician and an unorthodox businessman, Mr. Tapie was not part of France's mainstream control structure. Mr. Tapie also has had the bad manners to have a mouth he is not afraid to use, to say thing that are not welcome.

He no longer has his corporation, his football club, his parliamentary seats, and he has only limited liberty. But he still has his mouth.

Note:On 22. April 1994, Bernard Tapie was excluded from having anything to do with a football club by the French Football Federation. The exclusion was for a duration of two years, and has now lapsed.

Return to New News

Marks & Spencer's Workers Fight Back

After a weekend of uncertainty, a court today ordered British retailer Marks & Spencer to rethink its shutdown plans in France.

Worker's unions went to court in Paris to challenge the company's methods of announcing the closure of all 18 of its stores throughout France, and the layoff of all of its employees. The unions' attorneys argued that M & S had not followed European regulations.

The company defended itself by saying that itphoto: ile de la cite, spring had informed workers' representatives a half hour before informing stock exchange authorities in London. The stores are not to be closed until the end of the year the company also said. M & S said it intends to appeal the court's decision.

Spring has arrived in the park beside Notre Dame.

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin was reportedly not amused to hear that French M & S employees had been informed of the company's shutdown plans via email.

Apparently Marks & Spencer's methods of communicating with its employees is practiced by other employers in Britain, with huge jobs cuts being initially announced over local radio stations in England and Scotland.

Rail Strike(s) - Part III

The SNCF is still being plagued by partial strikes, affecting some TGV services and RER service in the Paris region. For the coming week, strike actions may affect some SNCF lines, all over France.

In regions where trains are running on reduced schedules, expect one out of two trains or two out of three. RER trains in the Paris region are also still affected.

Internet Life In France

After six years of popular access to the Internet in France, the media is starting to be amazed that so few French households are 'wired.' Gazillions of francs are being spent on publicity to incite usage, but four out of five families are resisting the temptation.

The number one operator, France Télécom, also thinks the French are resisting 'starting up.' An AOL spokesman thinks the reason for the 'resistance' is France Télécom's line charges.

All discussions about the subject always come back to the success of the Minitel, which still has millions of users daily. However Minitel terminals were loaned free of charge to users, and paid for - handsomely - by their access charges which were cleverly buried within telephone bills.

But if it is not excessive line charges, then it must be the cost of computers. Le Parisien says one capable of online 'family use' costs 10,000 francs, and all you get is a machine 'less indispensable than a car or a washing machine.'

It fails to note that hypermarchés have offers in the 7-8000 franc range, and this is not much more than the cost of a video camera or home cinema system.

But, at the end of the piece, comes the real news. Computers are hopelessly more tricky to keep running than the initial programming of a video recorder.

One expert even admires the French resistance, in the face of the unprecedented and unrelenting publicity assaults from all points.

Being able to operate a computer isn't supposed to be an intelligence test either - it's more like solving an annoying puzzle. 'Boring,' in other words.

Your Paris Web URLs

If you have any favorite Paris Web sites you think other readers should know about, please send them in. If they haven't been featured before and they don't crash my browser, you'll get a modest 'thankyou' here.

Weekends In the Country, Again

'Gîtes' are usually self-contained living quarters located in homes, farms and châteaux in rural areas throughout France. They can be simple or fancy, but their main characteristic is that they are not hotels, and you can do your own cooking. For being somewhat do-it-yourself, they are also relatively inexpensive.

In Paris you can check these out at their office, at the Maison des Gîtes de France et du Tourisme Vert, 59. Rue Saint-Lazare, Paris 9. Métro: Saint-Lazare. InfoTel.: 01 49 70 75 75.

The 'Official' Weather - 17.4% 'Spring'

Although Météo France's official motto - 'No Forecast More Than 24 Hours' - is firmly believed in this space, TV-weather news has forecast crummy times for the days ahead.

This makes sense because Easter will be with us next Sunday. This traditionally calls for daytime high temperaturesphoto: clicktown, rue de rome to slide below the 10-degree range, with accompanying lashes of rain, sleet, or even snow on the upper regions of Montmartre.

Another member the the hyper-cybercafé clan opens its doors in the Rue de Rome.

Even if this 'historic' outlook is negative, not to say downright rotten, let's consider the bottle half-full and if there is no rain, sleet or snow and temperatures somehow do climb over 10, we will have scored a major victory over the elements, won't we?

Temperatures are predicted to be at 'no more' than average 'for this time of year,' which means highs that are not worth mentioning again. For real forecasts, give the Météo France site a hit. Predictions are usually fairly shortrange because Météo France doesn't like going out on shaky meteorological limbs.

This said, Météo France is hoping - we hope too! - to have ultra-shortrange predictions available online by this coming summer. These should be handy for checking the weather at breakfast, to be sure it will be sunny enough for a stroll around the Quartier Latin at noon.

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