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SBD Global/March 12, 2013/Facilities

Jean-Michel Aulas Is A Football Man Who Succeeds In Big Business

In the six years since Ligue 1 Olympique Lyonnais Owner Jean-Michel Aulas hatched a plan to build a stadium in the east of the Lyon, France, the €400M ($522M) project "turned into a political football dividing local officials, environmentalists, fans and residents," according to Paul Betts of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Aulas "has finally clinched the contract with Vinci construction group to build the 58,000-seat stadium in time to host the European championships" in '16. An atypical figure in corporate France and more akin to a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, Aulas, 64, "started his first business when only 19." He founded software company Cegid, which specializes in accounting and fiscal services. Football was "his other big passion." In '87, he "was asked to help restore the fortunes of Olympique Lyonnais." He "rid the club of its debts, reorganised its management and, over two decades, transformed it into one of the richest in Europe." Aulas "did not see himself so much as a traditional football club boss but as an entrepreneur having developed a new business model for the sport." He "is focusing on his new stadium, which will involve the construction of two hotels, a leisure centre and office buildings." The project "will give Lyon a huge economic boost as well." Yet Aulas "still has to persuade the banks to lend him" €200M ($261M) to help finance the grand venture. He said, "In France there is a cultural problem. Winners are not popular" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 3/10).
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