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' actualy paid to Mr. XYZ, or was it a device to escape taxes and place the money beyond the jurisdiction of French tax authorities?

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