APRIL 9, 2009
From one generation to the next
Back in the 1960s Jean-Luc Lagardere was an electrical engineer working for the aviation company Dassault. It was not enough for him and in 1963 he quit to become the chief executive of one of Dassault's suppliers, a company called Engins Mecanique Aviation-Traction, but known as Matra. This specialised in developing rockets but Lagardere saw the potential for growth and bought the Rene Bonnet car company and began selling a car called the Djet. To promote the car he decided that Matra would go racing and an old Rene Bonnet Formula 3 design was revamped and began competing in 1965 with Jean-Pierre Beltoise scoring the company's first victories and winning the French F3 title. Matra Sports also ran a sports car programme that year with Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo. In the years that followed Matra became a major player in motorsport, enjoying success in Formula 2 with Jackie Stewart and Jacky Ickx and a decision was taken to enter F1 in 1968 with Matra's own team and cars for Ken Tyrrell. The following year Stewart took Matra to the F1 World Championship for Tyrrell. The company went on to win the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1972, 1973 and 1974, but the F1 programme had achieved its goals and was wound down and the major players moved to the new Ligier operation. Lagardere moved on to build up a media empire, buying the publishing houses Hachette and Filipacchi while also while continuing to build up the aerospace side of the company. In the 1990s the firm changed its name to Lagardere and the aerospace business became part of the EADS.
Jean-Luc Lagardere died in 2003 but his son Arnaud took over the business and continues to expand. In 2006 he started a sports marketing company called Lagardere Sports, with a view to making profits in the booming sector of sports management, the buying and selling of rights and sponsorship consulting. The new firm acquired the rights to two ATP tennis tournaments, the Tour of Germany cycle event and the Hamburg triathlon. It also launched the Transorientale, a 6,200-mile rally raid for cars, trucks and motorbikes from Russia to China. A few months ago it announced that it has secured the media rights for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sotchi and the 2016 Summer Olympics for 40 European countries (excluding France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the UK) for all media platforms, including free-to-air television, subscription television, the Internet and mobile phones.
Aiming to be the market leader by 2012, Lagardere Sports is expanding in various different areas, acquiring sports properties and creating new competitions where none exist.
One of Arnaud Lagardere's current projects is to return to the business in which his father first made his name - Formula 1. He is hoping to become the promoter of the French Grand Prix and may perhaps have ambitions to promote other events in different parts of the world if he can see a financial model that will work. It seems that negotiations are currently not easy as Bernie Ecclestone's financial demands are rather more than Lagardere wishes to invest. The French hope that the Grand Prix can be revived in 2011 but a deal is needed soon for this to happen and Ecclestone shows no signs of giving way on price as he has sufficient races (at the moment) to keep the calendar filled.