from virtual to reality, who is John Textor the giant who bought the Lyon club?

The case is in suspense club supporters for six months, punctuated by rumors and successive postponements before the finalization on Monday. Last June, announcing the agreement with Eagle Football, the historic boss of OL Jean Michel Aulas had yet said that “Textor ticks all the boxes” to take over the club which is recovering from a complicated financial period and is going through a bad sporting patch.

At the time, photographs had immortalized the two men together, all smiles. According to the agreement with Textor, Jean-Michel Aulas, 73, was to retain the operational management of the club once the sale was completed and join the management of Eagle Football.

In 35 years of presidency, Aulas has transformed OL from the status of a tinkering association club in D2 with a budget of 3 million euros into a listed company, a flagship of the entertainment and media sector, valued for its takeover around EUR 800 million. Not to mention seven consecutive titles of champion of France (2002-2008) and two semi-finals of the Champions League (2010-2020).

Streaming of sporting events

Arriving in Lyon, the 56-year-old American underlined the dual strength of the OL brand “in sport and entertainment” by saying his intention to make it “the epicenter” of his football-related projects. .

This former professional skateboarder and former computer programmer has made a name for himself in the virtual world, from special effects in cinema to digital creation by artificial intelligence and then to the streaming of live sporting events.

In 2016, Forbes magazine portrayed him as a “virtual reality guru in Hollywood”, thus devoting his activity to this market, as his biography recalls on his website.

From special effects to artificial intelligence

From 2006 to 2012, he chaired the board of directors of Digital Domain, a special effects studio for the big screen created by Canadian director James Cameron.

In addition to its participation in the special effects of films like Transformers, Tron: Legacy and part of the Pirates of the Caribbean saga, the studio made a name for itself by aging Brad Pitt in an ultra-realistic way in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008 ). But the company is placed in the US bankruptcy regime in 2012.

John Textor then launched Pulse Evolution, which develops holograms, in particular of deceased stars, with in 2012, an appearance in a Californian festival by American rapper Tupac Shakur, who died in 1996 or in 2014, a Michael Jackson at the Billboard Music Awards. Two performances viewed millions of times on YouTube.

The Missouri-born businessman then branched out into artificial intelligence. He created EvolutionAI to dedicate himself to “creating digital humans that help improve humanity”, as he says on his website.

Buyer of Botafogo

Then he turned to sports by co-founding FuboTV, a streaming service focused on the live broadcast of sporting events. He is trying to take control of the Portuguese clubs Benfica and Sporting Lisbon before succeeding in entering the capital of the London club Crystal Palace (Premier League) in August 2021, with 40% of the shares.

Then he seized Botafogo, a historic Brazilian club, by taking over 90% of its capital and acquiring 80% of the shares of RWD Molenbeek, which aims to return to the elite of Belgian football. At the time, Thierry Dailly, president of the Belgian club, presented him as a “passionate footballer”. His fiery tweets on Botafogo attest to this, even if he is first and foremost a businessman. “Football is no different than any other business. You have to win to be profitable,” he told CNN in March.

From report to report, the completion of the sale of OL has taken on the appearance of a soap opera and made supporters doubt its financial capacities. “Be aware that transactions like this can be quite complicated for buyers and sellers,” he wrote in mid-October on his website to calm negative rumors. Two months later, however, he ended up completing his funding round.

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