Crédit Lyonnais: the endless soap opera
How could the “Tapie debt” meter reach hundreds of millions of euros? A meter that we then left running for years “that a normal trader would have gone out of business much quicker”a connoisseur of the dossier still surprises today.
Mind-boggling bank loans
The story of this huge debt begins in the early 1990s, when the Bernard Tapie Group (GBT) acquires the German equipment manufacturer Adidas. The transaction is 100% financed by a banking pool led by Société de Banque Occidentale (SDBO), a subsidiary of Crédit Lyonnais. Total amount of sums lent: 1.6 billion francs, or 373 million euros (1).
While Bernard Tapie devoted himself to politics – he was short-lived minister to François Mitterand and above all a deputy – he commissioned the SDBO to resell Adidas. This is for Bernard Tapie to clear his bank debts (purchase of Adidas, restoration of the luxury yacht Phocaea, etc.). The minimum selling price of the equipment supplier is set by Tapie at € 768.5 million (1).
Adidas was sold on February 12, 1993 at the agreed price to eight buyers. At the same time, Crédit Lyonnais, which is still a public company, is facing a crisis (risky investments, economic recession, etc.) that will bring the bank to the brink of bankruptcy.
An unfair bank
For his part, Bernard Tapie is unable to meet his banking obligations, which would have been fulfilled in particular by the sale of the four companies still in his pocket (La Vie Claire, Testut, Terraillon and Scaime). Group companies are placed in controlled administration. The Tapie couple were personally placed in compulsory administrative liquidation on December 14, 1994.
On 22 December 1994 Adidas was sold again, this time for € 768.5 million (1). The beginning of this resale will appear to have been registered as of the February 12, 1993 sale. Bernard Tapie will shout at the conspiracy. Thus was born the dispute between Tapie and Crédit Lyonnais, whose subsidiary SDBO, the only beneficiary of the capital gain, is accused of unfairness.
The dispute goes on for years. On 7 November 1996, SDBO was ordered for the first time to pay a provision of € 126.8 million (1) to the entities of the Tapie group – now in the hands of the liquidators.
On appeal, almost ten years later, the Court of Appeals upheld the bank’s version of the unfair. The CDR (the public body that took over the rotten assets of Crédit Lyonnais to facilitate their privatization) and the Lyonnais are sentenced to pay 135 million euros.
In 2006 this sentence was annulled by the Court of Cassation due to an error of interpretation. A year later, the parties sign an arbitration agreement.
On 7 July 2008, an arbitration panel attributed two faults to SDBO, including lack of loyalty, and sentenced the CDR to pay the sum of 240 million, in addition to interest, but also the costs of judicial liquidation (8.4 million euros) and cancel a debt of several tens of millions of euros. The non-pecuniary damage of the Tapie spouses is set at 45 million euros. For CDR, the overall bill is approximately 400 million euros.
This is now the amount of the “Tapie debt”, after the arbitration was overturned (2017) by the courts and found to be fraudulent (2021) for obscure maneuvers (an arbitrator was in a conflict of interest situation). A sum to which the interests claimed by the CDR are added, or a total of 600 million euros to be raised, according to an estimate of July 2022.
1. All amounts in Swiss francs have been converted into current euros.