PARIS: Louis Nicollin, long-time owner and president of Montpellier, has died aged 74 after a heart attack.

Nicollin was one of the most forceful personalities within the French though his blunt, bluff style earned him plenty of critics as well as admirers.

Born on 29 June 1943 in Valence, he moved to Montpellier in 1967 to run the family cleaning company, the Nicollin group, whose leadership he assumes a decade later on the death of his father.

In sport Nicollin began in rugby as a sponsor of Béziers main shareholder of Montpellier Hérault Rugby Club as well as handball and basketball.

His greatest achievement was in football. He took commnd of Montpellier when the club was still in the lower-division amateur sector and turned them into one of the establishment powers of the French domestic game.

Star players included World Cup and European Championship defender Laurent Blanc as well as Eric Cantona and Colombian World Cup and Copa America star Carlos Valderrama.

Montpellier, under Nicollin, won the French cup in 1990 and the league title, apparently against all financial odds, in 2012.

Nicollin counted the actor Gerard Depardieu and former France captain and UEFA president Michel Platini among his friends.