Five key dates in Jean-Michel Aulas’ career
After 36 years at the helm of Olympique Lyonnais football club, Jean-Michel Aulas, emblematic president of OL, recently handed the reins of the club to John Textor, an American businessman who had acquired the majority of the titles in 2022. Here are five key dates to chart Jean-Michel Aulas’ career in French football.
Jean-Michel Aulas was born on March 22, 1949 in L’Arbresle in the Rhône department. Although he did not initially consider a career in football, he rose to fame as a leader in the sport. In 1983, together with Jean-Claude Sansoe, he founded Cegid (European Company for Management by Decentralized Computing) and floated it on the stock exchange in 1986. So Jean-Michel Aulas was a daring businessman who was not connected to the world of football, but fate would have it otherwise. He entered the sport in 1987.
June 15, 1987
As a regular guest on the show ambitions On TF1, presented by Bernard Tapie, Jean-Michel Aulas is involved in a debate that will change the course of his business career. After the broadcast of the program, a journalist from the newspaper Progress asks who could save Olympique Lyonnais from the second division, considering the city is big enough for a first division club. Bernard Tapie immediately suggested Jean-Michel Aulas as the man for the job. This idea was picked up by the Lyon press:
« Aulas President of OL ».
On 15 June 1987, the Olympique Lyonnais board of directors officially appointed Jean-Michel Aulas as the club’s new president, succeeding Charles Mighirian. This appointment was a crucial turning point in OL’s resurgence in French football as the club was then struggling financially and even risked relegation to a lower division.
This decision was a turning point in Jean-Michel Aulas’ career.
April 29, 1999
While Olympique Lyonnais were promoted to Division 1 (now Ligue 1), in 1989, two years after the arrival of Jean-Michel Aulas at the helm of the club, Olympique Lyonnais became the first French club to structure itself like a traditional company, with particular entry to the capital by Jérôme Seydoux, chairman of Pathé, on April 29, 1999. Later in 2007, OL became the first French club to be listed on the stock exchange. The signing of Sonny Anderson from FC Barcelona for a record sum of 120 million francs (around 17.77 million euros) contributed to a goal success in the history of OL, which entered a new dimension in sporting and business terms.
May 4, 2002
On the final day of the Division 1 Championship on May 4, 2002, Olympique Lyonnais faced RC Lens, who were then first in the standings while OL was second. This meeting is considered a real final for the title. At the Gerland Stadium in Lyon, Lyon won the game 3-1 and won the title of French champion. It marked the beginning of an era of orienteering dominance in the 2000s, with seven consecutive French league titles and three UEFA Champions League quarter-finals (between 2004 and 2006). The club is also successful at European level and joins the G14, the lobby of the 18 most important clubs in Europe. In 2007, Jean-Michel Aulas was elected president of this lobby.
Still, some resounding failures will occur, most notably losing the 100th Derby of history in September 2010 against AS Saint-Etienne, the great historical rival. In front of angry supporters he said:
« We lost to Saint-Etienne for the first time in sixteen years. We play in the Champions League while the Stéphanois fight for it on the Playstation ».
This statement will be burned into our memories.
January 9, 2016
In addition to being an emblematic club in men’s football, Olympique Lyonnais also enjoyed great success in women’s football, becoming European women’s champions on May 26, 2011, beating Potsdam 2-0 in London. Michel Aulas was therefore also successful thanks to initiatives such as the foundation a women’s team in Lyon, but also the construction of the Grand Stade de l’OL, which was the first French club to have its own stadium. Inaugurated on January 9, 2016 in Décines-Charpieu, the Groupama Stadium is a state-of-the-art 59,000-seat complex hailed by Jean-Michel Aulas as:
« the best day of his life ».
December 19, 2022
On December 19, the purchase of the majority of shares in OL Groupe was officially announced. The transaction was completed after long and uncertain negotiations with holding company Eagle Football, owned by American businessman John Textor. Although Jean-Michel Aulas retains his position as president, he no longer has as much power over the club and his past actions could be questioned. Consequently, he is always more discreet in social networks and communicates less often. The takeover of Olympique Lyonnais by John Textor could therefore mean the end of the Jean-Michel Aula era.
The new American owners announced the immediate departure of Jean-Michel Aulas on May 8, 2023, accusing him of inadequate sporting policies that had led to poor results for the club. This decision was taken three years ahead of the scheduled date for the Olympique Lyonnais acquisition and Jean-Michel Aulas will receive a €10m settlement.
A key figure in French football for more than thirty years, Jean-Michel Aulas has managed to transform a struggling club into a listed company with a prestigious track record upon arrival.