Back in April 2010 I covered rumours of a bid for the Tour de France, the suitor being Arnaud Lagardère. He’s the owner of Lagardère Group which owns a range of media assets in France. Primarily it does publishing, newsprint and as well as owning a stake in the country’s prime satellite broadcaster Canal+. But it’s got an extra division called Lagardère Unlimited that specialises in sports management and entrainment and it’s the growth of this part that made people wonder if Lagardère could bid for ASO, the sports management business that runs the Tour de France but also the French Open golf tournament and the Paris Marathon amongst other events.
But the bid never came. Yet Lagardère is still interested in the sports business. Only his stock is taking a battering in France thanks to a video of him with a new girlfriend, Jade Foret. She’s a Belgian model, aged 20.
You can judge for yourself but in France he’s come in for ridicule, not really for the 51 year-old billionaire dating a 20 year-old model (“so Mademoiselle Foret, what was it that attracted you to the billionaire Arnaud Lagardère?“), but more for flaunting this in public. Something that’s rare for executives in France.
He’s already been under pressure for investors but this video is a tipping point, or at least an additional stick for upset investors to beat him with. If shareholders get greater sway over the business then it is likely they demand a focus on the groups existing assets rather than bold bids for Le Tour. The full business story is covered by many sources, for example the New York Times.
Beyond this youtube story lies a tale of corporate control. Once mooted as a potential bidder for the Tour de France, today Arnaud Lagardère is the butt of jokes. But don’t rule him out. He’s got an interest in sport and plenty of cash.
On the other side it seems ASO’s parent company Amaury Group – also heavily involved in publishing – is still very keen on owning the Tour de France and since the sale rumours it has moved more into pro cycling, in particular it is keen to exploit the cyclosport area for grand fondo style events around the world, capitalising on the success of its Etape du Tour rides. With the Tour de France as its brand, it has a headstart.