Controversial French tycoon Bernard Tapie dies age 78

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Former French minister and scandal-ridden tycoon Bernard Tapie died peacefully on Sunday 3 October, his family has announced. The former owner of Adidas and one-time president of Olympique de Marseille football club had been battling cancer for nearly five years.

Tapie was a former Socialist minister who rose from humble beginnings to build a sporting and media empire, but later faced a string of legal problems.

He made a fortune in the early part of his career by taking over failing companies with allegedly dubious methods, and often flaunted his wealth, including buying a 72-metre yacht and a football club, Olympique de Marseille, which won the French championship under his ownership.

He was also suspected of match-fixing in France's top football league.

He was briefly minister for urban affairs in Francois Mitterrand's government in 1992.

Many legal troubles

Tapie was found guilty in a string of cases for corruption, tax fraud and misuse of corporate assets, went to prison for five months and was stripped of the right to stand for election in France.

After his release from prison in 1997, Tapie added showbiz to his various activities, trying his hand at acting and hosting radio and TV shows.

In 2012 he also became a media boss, taking over southern French daily La Provence and other newspapers.

One fraud case dogged Tapie for decades. It involved a hugely controversial settlement worth 400 million euros ($470 million at current rates) awarded to him by a government arbitration panel.

The panel judged he had been the victim of fraud when he sold his stake in the Adidas sports apparel company in 1993 to state-run French bank Credit Lyonnais, which was found to have undervalued the sportswear brand.

'Determined' to stand trial

The case also ensnared then-finance minister Christine Lagarde, who now runs the European Central Bank. She was found guilty of "negligence" in the case.

Lagarde's handling of the case sparked suspicion that her former boss Nicolas Sarkozy, whom Tapie had backed for president in 2007, was favourably disposed towards the businessman -- allegations Sarkozy has vehemently denied.

In the autumn of last year, Tapie's fraud trial was postponed due to his declining health. He was suffering from both stomach cancer and cancer of the oesophagus.

(With AFP)

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