Robert Louis-Dreyfus

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Robert Louis-Dreyfus
Robert dreyfus.jpg
Born(1946-06-14)14 June 1946
Paris, France
Died4 July 2009(2009-07-04) (aged 63)
Zürich, Switzerland
Known forCEO of Adidas (1994–2001)
CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi (1989–93)
Majority shareholder of Olympique de Marseille (1996–2016)
Spouse(s)Sarah Oberholzer (m. 19??; div. 1989)
(m. 1992)
RelativesMonique Roosmale Nepveu (sister)
Marie-Jeanne Meyer (sister)
Louis Louis-Dreyfus
(paternal grandfather)
Léopold Louis-Dreyfus
(paternal great-grandfather)
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
(paternal second cousin once removed)

Robert Louis-Dreyfus ((1946-06-14)14 June 1946 – (2009-07-04)4 July 2009) was a French businessman who was chief executive officer (CEO) of Adidas (then, "Adidas Salomon") and Saatchi & Saatchi. He was a majority shareholder of the French football team Olympique de Marseille, and during his tenure they re-emerged as a major European football club.

Early life[edit]

Robert Louis-Dreyfus was born in Paris, the son of Jean and Jeanne Madeline (née Depierre) Louis-Dreyfus.[1][2] His father was Jewish and his mother Roman Catholic.[3] He was a great-grandson of Léopold Louis-Dreyfus, founder of the Louis-Dreyfus Group, which had begun buying and selling wheat in the Alsace region a century earlier, and rapidly diversified into shipping, oil and other commodities.[4] His grandfather was Louis Louis-Dreyfus, who served in the French Parliament during the French Third Republic.[5] He has two sisters: Marie-Jeanne and Monique.[6]

Robert Louis-Dreyfus was initially a bad student who failed his Baccalauréat,[7] but he excelled at poker, winning considerable amounts of money from his friends at the Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris. In 1967, he spent time at a kibbutz and was involved in the Six-Day War. He later secured a place at Harvard Business School with a presentation about his experiences during the war.[4] He spent the early years of his working life mentored by Siegmund Warburg, in the family business of the Louis-Dreyfus Group.

Business career[edit]

In 1982 Louis-Dreyfus joined IMS, the US pharmaceutical research company enjoying spectacular monetary success. His original US$400,000 grew twentyfold by the time the company was sold in 1988. He served as CE at Saatchi & Saatchi, the United Kingdom-based advertising agency from 1989 to 1993.[8] Louis-Dreyfus invested his own money in Saatchi and Saatchi and during his tenure the agency grew considerably.

He proved equally successful when in 1994 he took the top job at Adidas, the German-based sporting goods maker. Louis-Dreyfus added to the brand by streamlining the product line and adding new companies to the group, including the Salomon ski-wear and golf company in 1997. He remained CEO of Adidas until 2001, combining this position with chairmanship of Neuf Telecom with whom he served until 2004. He also served as a director of Neuf Cegetel.

Robert Louis-Dreyfus re-joined the family company, Louis-Dreyfus Group, in May 2000, and restructured this major commodities trading and merchandising firm.

In 2005, he decided to relaunch the Le Coq Sportif sports company through a Swiss investment company, Airesis.

Sporting interests[edit]

In 1996 Louis-Dreyfus became the largest shareholder of Olympique de Marseille, a French football team who had recently been rocked by a major match fixing scandal and subsequently relegated to the French second division as part of their punishment. Louis-Dreyfus, with Adidas and the telecommunications company Neuf, sponsored the team; Louis-Dreyfus invested heavily in rebuilding the Marseille squad, marketing the team to the new immigrant populations in Marseille. The financial fortunes of the club improved, with shirt sales rocketing. However, success, if judged purely on trophies won, still eluded the club despite reaching the final of the UEFA Cup on two occasions and twice losing in the final of the Coupe de France. Olympique de Marseille also missed out on the Ligue 1 title during Louis-Dreyfus's tenure, though shortly before his death they finished second to FC Girondins de Bordeaux and qualified for the group stage of the UEFA Champions League.[citation needed]

Louis-Dreyfus was also a shareholder in the Belgium football club Standard Liège, and was involved in the creation of Infront Sports & Media in 2002 (transition from the former KirchSport completed in February 2003) acting as the company's chairman of the board. The Swiss-based sports marketing agency was handling the media rights distribution of the FIFA World Cup in 2002 and 2006. Today it is the marketing partner of 130 sports federations and clubs.[citation needed]

FIFA World Cup bribery scandal[edit]

In October 2015 the German news magazine Der Spiegel reported that the bidding committee for the FIFA World Cup 2006 had set-up a slush fund that Louis-Dreyfus, at the time CEO of Adidas, filled with 10.3 million Swiss francs in 2000. Allegedly these funds were used to bribe numerous FIFA officials and secure Germany's bid to host the 2006 World Cup, whilst a FIFA report had strongly criticised England's supposedly 'unprofessional' rival bid presentation. According to internal FIFA documents, Louis-Dreyfus had demanded a repayment of the funds in 2004, which were transferred as €6.7 million via a FIFA account in Geneva to an account held by Louis-Dreyfus.[9]


Louis-Dreyfus died in Zürich aged 63 on 4 July 2009, following a long period with leukemia.[10][11]

Personal life[edit]

Louis-Dreyfus was married twice. Before divorcing his first wife, Sarah Oberholzer,[1] in 1989, he met his second wife Margarita Bogdanova in 1988, whom he married in 1992 and with whom he had three sons:[12] Eric, Maurice, and Kyril Louis-Dreyfus,[1] the latter of whom became the chairman and majority shareholder of English football club Sunderland A.F.C. in February 2021, aged only 24.[13]

Louis-Dreyfus identified as an agnostic.[3] The American actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, famed for her role in the television comedy series Seinfeld, is his second cousin once removed.

Following his death, his enterprises were inherited and supervised by Margarita Louis-Dreyfus,[7] she is considered to be the richest Russian woman today.[14][15] Margarita inherited 60% of the organization (increased to 65% in 2012).[6] Robert's two sisters, Monique Louis-Dreyfus Roosmale Nepveu and Marie-Jeanne Louis-Dreyfus Meyer, each own 12% and are now both billionaires.[6]


  1. ^ a b c "Biographie Robert Louis-dreyfus Président de société". Retrieved 2017-02-23.
  2. ^ Bourdon, Jean-Claude and Jacques-Olivier Martin Robert Louis-Dreyfus: Les aventures d'un Don Juan des affaires (2007), 293 pages, ISBN 2-35228-003-6
  3. ^ a b Paris Match: "“Robert Louis-Dreyfus, un seigneur qui voyait loin et visait haut" by Jacques Veyrat July 8, 2009 (in French) | "...cet agnostique, fils d’un juif et d’une catholique..." / "...this agnostic, the son of a Jew and a Catholic..."
  4. ^ a b Pierre Perrone (17 July 2009). "Obituary: Robert Louis-Dreyfus: Businessman who helped resurrect Olympique Marseille football club" (newspaper). The Independent. United Kingdom: Independent News and Media Limited.
  5. ^ Sénat français. "Anciens sénateurs IIIème République : LOUIS-DREYFUS Louis". Retrieved 2017-02-23.
  6. ^ a b c "Rising Commodity Prices Created Three Louis-Dreyfus Billionaires". 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
  7. ^ a b Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, fr.wikipedia
  8. ^ ""Mister Adidas" ist tot". Retrieved 2010-05-15.
  9. ^ "Fifa Fußball-WM 2006 mutmaßlich vom DFB gekauft - SPIEGEL ONLINE". 2015-10-16. Retrieved 2017-02-23.
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-01-11. Retrieved 2016-11-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ "Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, la tsarine des affaires - Madame Figaro". (in French). Retrieved 2017-02-23.
  13. ^ "Louis-Dreyfus acquires controlling interest in Sunderland AFC". Sunderland Association Football Club. 2021-02-18. Retrieved 2021-02-18.
  14. ^ Маргарита Луи-Дрейфус, ru.wikipedia
  15. ^ "Маргарита Луи-Дрейфус. Первый класс. Фрагмент выпуска от 05.03.2012". 2017-02-17. Retrieved 2017-02-23.