KEIR RADNEDGE COMMENTARY —- Bernard Tapie, colourful French businessman, politician but also football match-fixer, has died at 78 after a long battle with stomach cancer.
A family statement said: “Dominique Tapie and her children have the infinite sorrow of announcing the death of her husband and their father, Bernard Tapie, this Sunday, October 3 at 8.40 am, as a result of cancer.
“He left peacefully, surrounded by his wife, his children, his grandchildren, and his brother, present at his bedside. He expressed his wish to be buried in Marseille, the city of his heart.”
Deteriorating health had brought to a halt in May his latest Paris court battle in a case dating back to 2008.
Tapie was born in Paris on January 26, 1943. He developed a reputation as a ruthless, asset-stripping businessman. In 1990 he achieved a major international coup on buying the German giant sportswear Adidas. However its resale three years triggered a conflict with its Crédit Lyonnais bank.
Tapie was rarely out of the headlines as he bought the high-profile Hôtel de Cavoye in the 7th arrondissement of Paris and the luxury yacht, the Phocéa, and reached the pinnacle of his career on being appointed Minister of the City under President François Mitterrand 1992.
One year later, however, it all began to unravel on thee football pitch.
In 1986 Tapie had bought Olympique de Marseille. They won four league titles and two French cups and then the UEFA Champions League in 1993. Within days of the 1-0 win over Milan, however, it emerged that the club had tried to ‘buy’ a league game against Valenciennes the previous weekend.
Tapie and general manager Jean-Pierre Bernès had contacted Valenciennes’ Jorge Burruchaga, Jacques Glassmann, and Christophe Robert through Marseille player Jean-Jacques Eydelie, who asked them to underperform in the match so that Marseille could be assured of the league title ahead of the Champions final.
Burruchaga and Robert accepted the bribe but Glassmann blew the whistle – a decision which later earned him a FIFA Fair Play Award.
Tapie, Bernes, Burruchaga, Eydelie, and Robert were all convicted of corruption. Tapie and Eydelie were sentenced to jail terms, whilst Bernes, Argentinian World Cup-winner Burruchaga and Robert all received suspended sentences.
Marseille were stripped of their French league crown, punished with relegation and barred from defending the European crown.
In all Tapie was sentenced six times for corruption, tax evasion or fraud and was jailed for five months in 1997. Later he was accused of fraud in securing a €403 compensation award from his despite with Crédit Lyonnais. Tapie was found at fault in civil proceedings for fraud in 2015 but escaped criminal proceedings in 2019.
On his release from prison in July 1997, Tapie created a new persona as an actor and radio and television host. He then became a media mogul after buying La Provence and associated titles in 2012.
Tapie, invited once to sum up his career, said: “You have times when things are going really well and then other times when things are going very badly.”