A momentous era is coming to an end at Olympique Lyonnais as the club’s iconic president, Jean-Michel Aulas, is set to step down from his position this week after nearly 36 years in charge, according to L’Équipe. This signifies a significant transition for Lyon as the new American owners from Eagle Football seek to make substantial changes to the club’s sporting structure.
According to multiple internal sources at Olympique Lyonnais the 74 year-old will be relinquishing his role as club president, a position he has held since June 1987. Lyon insiders suggest that an official announcement regarding Aulas’ departure is imminent and is expected to be made in the coming hours. Despite L’Équipe’s attempts to reach out to the American owners of Eagle Football, they have yet to respond to inquiries.
When Eagle Football acquired Lyon, its president, John Textor, had agreed upon a governance contract with Aulas, allowing the iconic president to remain at the helm for three more years. However, tensions have steadily increased, with Eagle Football’s desire to transform the football department remaining unmet by Aulas. Surprisingly, Textor made an unexpected visit to Lyon on Sunday, not only to attend the match against Montpellier (5-4) but also to fine-tune the collaboration model with Jean-Michel Aulas.
Eagle Football’s primary and prioritised objective was to extensively restructure the sporting sector, as revealed by L’Equipe on April 7. This included the establishment of a well-equipped recruitment department, a move that Aulas reportedly did not endorse. A final board meeting held on Friday afternoon failed to make any significant progress, leading the Americans to reportedly decide to continue without Jean-Michel Aulas. Aware that his time with Lyon was drawing to a close, Aulas, who has aspirations for the presidency of the future French Women’s League, and those close to him sensed that he was contemplating stepping aside to allow the Americans to take a more active role.
Aulas is expected to receive a complete severance package amounting to €10 million, as stipulated in the event of a separation occurring before the end of the three-year governance period. Originally, it was understood that the Americans would have to repurchase Aulas’ shares in OL Groupe still held by his family holding company, Holnest (9% of the capital). However, it appears that “JMA” has decided to retain his shares and will continue to serve on the board of directors of OLG.
Jean-Michel Aulas took over Lyon, burdened with debt and in the second division, 35 years ago and transformed it into one of Europe’s top clubs. Under his leadership, Lyon won seven consecutive French league titles from 2002 to 2008 and became the proud owners of their stadium. Eagle Football officially acquired the club for €800 million on December 19, hoping to rejuvenate it, as Lyon has not won any major titles for the past eleven years since their Coupe de France triumph in 2012.
GFFN | George Boxall