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Bernard Tapie Sells Adidas; Conservatives Demand Investigation

February 15, 1993 GMT

PARIS (AP) _ Businessman-politician Bernard Tapie, who described his purchase of Adidas three years ago as ″the deal of my life,″ sold his controlling share of the sporting goods company on Monday for $370 million.

Conservative opposition leaders demanded an investigation, saying state-run firms were helping to bail out the flamboyant leftist.

The buyers included three state-run French financial firms, two British investment groups, and the chief executive of the media group Saatchi & Saatchi PLC, Robert-Louis Dreyfus, who will resign that post to become president of Adidas’ management board at the end of March.

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Tapie, who has served in the National Assembly and the Cabinet and owns the Olympique Marseille soccer team, has said he wants to concentrate on politics. He is a candidate of the Radical Movement of the Left, a small party allied to the governing Socialists, for a parliamentary seat in next month’s elections.

Leaders of the conservative opposition, which is expected to seize control of Parliament from the Socialists in the elections, have been critical of the Adidas deal since details were disclosed last week.

Francois d’Aubert of the center-right Union for French Democracy, said he would try to form an inquiry commission as soon as the conservatives took power.

″I’m not saying this is corruption,″ he said. ″I’m saying it’s immoral for big public enterprises to help their friends in power.″

″Would any other chief executive benefit from the same banking support?″ d’Aubert asked.

Alain Juppe, another opposition leader, said the probe should include the recent purchase of Yves Saint-Laurent by the state-owned firm Elf-Sanofi. Pierre Berge, chief executive of the fashion house, has close ties to many Socialist leaders.

Adidas announced Monday, after a meeting of its management board in Germany, that Bernard Tapie Finance SA had sold its shareholding in the company. BTF owned 78 percent of Adidas International Holding GmbH, which in turn owns 95 percent of Adidas AG, the operating unit.

Adidas said Louis-Dreyfus had acquired a 15 percent stake in Adidas through his Ricesa corporation.

He joins three French state-controlled companies that increased their stakes of Adidas. Credit Lyonnais, Assurances Generales de France (AGF) and Banque Worms, a unit of Union des Assurances de Paris, will increase their collective shareholding in Adidas to 42.1 percent from 20 percent at present.

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Two groups of British investors - Coatbridge Holdings Ltd. and Omega Ventures Ltd. - acquired shareholdings of 15 percent and 19.9 percent respectively, in Adidas, the Adidas statement said. Coatbridge is controlled by Euroknights International Ltd., while Omega represents investors advised by Citibank, it said.

Gilberte Beaux, currently chairman of Adidas’ board, increased her shareholding to 8 percent from 5 percent. She will be replaced by Louis- Dreyfus.

The sale of Tapie’s stake in financially troubled Adidas had been widely anticipated. Tapie bought his stake in 1990 in a friendly takeover.

Tapie tried to bail out of Adidas last July when he negotiated the sale of his stake to Pentland Group PLC, a British sporting goods company, in a deal worth about $400 million.

But Pentland said it uncovered some serious problems inside Adidas, and reneged on its agreement to acquire the 80 percent of BTF that it didn’t already own.

Juppe, referring to Pentland’s decision on Adidas, said, ″A private company that had total freedom of movement found this business too bad to buy. That apparently doesn’t bother either Credit Lyonnais or AGF.″