Billionaire Louis-Dreyfus to Sell Marseille Soccer Team

  • Changes in soccer world prompt French club divestiture
  • `Price won't be my first concern,' Louis-Dreyfus says

Billionaire Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, chairwoman and controlling shareholder of one of the world’s largest commodity traders, plans to sell French soccer club Olympique de Marseille, citing commercial and political changes in the sport.

“The price won’t be my first concern,” Louis-Dreyfus said Wednesday in a statement published on the club’s website. "On the contrary, the ability of the new shareholder to make the club a winning team at the highest level will be essential."

Louis-Dreyfus is the 22nd-richest woman in the world with a net worth of $6 billion, according to Bloomberg estimates. The Russian-born businesswoman’s late husband Robert Louis-Dreyfus bought Olympique de Marseille seven years ago. Margarita, 53, took leave from her duties as chairwoman at Louis Dreyfus Co. to give birth to twin girls in March.

“The new world of football has changed a lot, now there are states where specialized companies have almost unlimited capital to dominate,” she said. “Their investments are commercial with political goals that go well beyond the sporting context.”

French Cup

The company’s 2015 profit fell 67 percent last year to the lowest in a decade following a slump in commodity prices, reduced volatility and an oversupply of agricultural commodities from wheat to soybeans. The Amsterdam-based company trades more than 80 million tons of commodities a year and had revenue of $56 billion in 2015.

Margarita owns 81 percent of the holding company that controls Louis Dreyfus Co. The trading house said in November it’s considering selling a minority stake to external investors as she weighs options for financing the buyout of remaining family shareholders.

Margarita said Wednesday in her message to club members that winning the French Cup was still possible. Marseille won the trophy in 2010 and the French League Cup in 2010-2012.

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