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OBITUARY: Robert Louis-Dreyfus (1946-2009)
by Paul Kennedy, July 6th, 2009 7AM



Robert Louis-Dreyfus, one of the most influential businessmen in European soccer over the last 20 years, died Saturday of leukemia at the age of 63. The French-born Swiss billionaire was president of French club Marseille.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter said Louis-Dreyfus "contributed hugely to the game of football, not only with his visionary business sense, but especially with his heart."

Louis-Dreyfus, cousin of American actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus and a graduate of Harvard's business school, was a director of major sportswear companies adidas and Salomon and CEO of advertising company Saatchi & Saatchi.

He took over OM in 1996 and kept it afloat after being stripped of its 1992-93 league title and demoted to the second division for the match-fixing scandal.

Louis-Dreyfus reportedly pumped $300 million of his own money into Marseille, which hasn't won a major trophy since then but it is France's most popular club.

Louis-Dreyfus' reign was not without controversy.

In 2006,  he was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence in a scandal involving 10 people embezzling money through alleged hidden bonuses in the transfer of 15 players.

In 2007, a deal to sell Marseille to Florida-based Canadian businessman Jack Kachkar fell through at the last moment.

Only recently, popular club president Pape Diouf, a former player agent, was fired by Louis-Dreyfus after five years on the job.

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