Netflix Sept. 13 began streaming “Tapie,” a fictional seven-part limited series based on the late French business tycoon Bernard Tapie, whose flamboyance was only matched by the myriad controversies that surrounded much of his adult life.
Tapie, who died in 2021 at the age of 78, is played by French actor Laurent Lafitte (The Takedown) and traces a 30-year timeline (1966-1997) that saw the self-made mercurial businessman create a national presence and become a success story, appearing on French TV, buying fiscally-troubled German sportswear brand Adidas and the Olympique de Marseille soccer club, and creating the La Vie Claire (based on healthcare products) professional cycling team, which included French cycling icon Bernard Hinault and American Greg LeMond, among other ventures.
Along the way, most of Tapie’s business forays were conducted in the public to great fanfare — and often controversy.
The Adidas fiscal turnaround saved a venerable brand, but Tapie’s subsequent $500 million majority stake sale of the company in the early 1990s, while also the urban affairs minister in President François Mitterrand’s socialist government, drew criticism from political opponents, who accused him of using higher-ranking political connections to close the deal.
The La Vie Claire team would win two Tour de France races — the last in 1986 when race winner LeMond found his biggest race challenger to be his own teammate Hinault — much to the delight of the French media.
Tapie would later be convicted for tax evasion and jailed six months for attempting to bribe three of his Marseille soccer players, which resulted in a lifetime ban by French soccer.
“The collapse of Bernard Tapie has become a sort of symbol, the symbol of a triple failure: that of a tabloid society … that of an era of easy money and hysterical financing, which was the 1980s, and that of the power of an ambition to change life,” Philippe Labarde wrote in a column for Le Monde following the mogul’s death.
The Netflix series, of course, has drawn its own criticism from Tapie’s family, who did not participate in the production. Tapie’s widow, Dominique, in a media interview, said she wasn’t afraid of the series, adding instead, “I deplore it.”
Series writer and co-creator Olivier Demangel told AFP that the Netflix show neither blames or excuses Tapie’s behavior.
“This is the story of a television salesman who wanted to get into television, and who ended up incorporating television,” Demangel said.