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French tycoon Bernard Tapie sentenced to 400 million euro payout to Crédit Lyonnais

French tycoon Bernard Tapie, January 2008
French tycoon Bernard Tapie, January 2008 AFP

French tycoon Bernard Tapie was sentenced on Thursday to refund 400 million euros to Crédit Lyonnais although he has accused the bank of defrauding him over the sale of sports giant Adidas in the 1990s and has claimed more than 1 billion euros in damages.

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Twenty years after French tycoon Bernard Tapie sold his share in sportwear giant Adidas, the case is still grabbing headlines.

Tapie, 72, a former politician and businessman has claimed that bank Crédit Lyonnais defrauded him intentionally in 1993 when undervaluing Adidas at the time of the sale. But his accusations don't stop there. Because the state was the bank’s principal shareholder, Tapie argues the government also cheated him.

Accordingly, Tapie’s lawyers said both the bank and the state should compensate him.

In 2008, an arbitration panel upheld Tapie’s claim and ordered a 400 million euro state payout to the French tycoon. But the case reopened in February 2015 and the 400 million euro payout was nullified by a regular court.

Tapie brought the issue before the court of appeal of Paris on 29 September, claiming between 516 million and 1,17 billion euros in compensation. Representatives of the former state-owned bank are “dishonest financial geniuses” his lawyers said before the court. They allegedly premeditated the “siphoning” of Tapie’s assets, they added.

Critics argue Tapie was well informed of the financial package and that he was in fact rescued from bankruptcy by the French bank.

Tapie bought Adidas in 1990 for 1,6 billion francs and sold it in 1992 for 2,085 billion francs. But two months later on 13 February 2013, Adidas was bought by eight buyers amongst them a Credit Lyonnais subsidiary (Clinvest). That very same day, the eight buyers resold Adidas to another investor for 3,5 billion francs.

It's this difference of 1,5 billion francs (310 million euros) that Tapie was seeking to reclaim. Instead he now has to repay the state 400 million euros, which he should have received from the Adidas sale.

His lawyers slammed the Paris Appeal's court decision as an "error of justice." They're now pursuing alternative legal routes to "ensure that justice prevails."

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