State awards payback to maverick mogul Tapie

1st October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 30 (AFP) - A French court on Friday ordered the state to pay EUR 135 million euros to maverick former business mogul Bernard Tapie because of irregularities in the sale of his Adidas sports-goods empire more than 10 years ago.

PARIS, Sept 30 (AFP) - A French court on Friday ordered the state to pay EUR 135 million euros to maverick former business mogul Bernard Tapie because of irregularities in the sale of his Adidas sports-goods empire more than 10 years ago.

Tapie, 62, was demanding the much larger sum of EUR 990 million on the grounds that he was defrauded by the Crédit Lyonnais bank in 1993-94 when it sold Adidas on his behalf to businessman Robert-Louis Dreyfus.

Crédit Lyonnais has since been wound up and its liabilities taken over by the state-operated Realisation Consortium (CDR). The cost of the award will therefore ultimately be borne by the tax-payer.

"Justice has recognised that I was robbed," Tapie told AFP by telephone.

Tapie had a flamboyant career as tycoon, chairman of Olympic Marseille football club and government minister under socialist president François Mitterrand before falling from grace under a succession of criminal charges for match-fixing and corruption.

He served seven months in jail in 1997, after which he has been back in the media spotlight as an actor and talk-show host.

At the hearing in June, the court was told that after being appointed urban affairs minister in 1992 Tapie agreed with Crédit Lyonnais to sell Adidas for the franc equivalent of some EUR 400 million.

But it was alleged that the bank had secretly agreed with Dreyfus -- who was one of the new shareholders -- that he would take control of the company for a much higher price two years later. Crédit Lyonnais itself made a large amount of money from the deal.

Tapie argued that he would have sold Adidas directly to Dreyfus had he known about his higher offer.

In its ruling the court said that "Crédit Lyonnais, by not keeping its client loyally informed, was in breach of its obligations."

The court estimated at EUR 66 million the damage suffered by Tapie at the time of the sale, which it more than doubled to take account of the increase in the Adidas share value.

Technically the action was brought not by Tapie in person, but by minority shareholders in his Bernard Tapie Finance company (BTF) which was also awarded EUR 300,000 in costs to be paid by the CDR.

"What is important is not the money. It is the fact that the ruling states clearly that (Crédit Lyonnais) did something indefensible and robbed me," Tapie said.

Tapie is due back in court in the coming weeks to face what should be the last charges of tax fraud relating to his business empire. His lawyers had won a postponement of the trial arguing that the results of the Adidas case would have a bearing.

Since going bankrupt in the mid 1990s, the businessman has been obliged to surrender some 80 percent of his income to pay off his companies' massive debts.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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