We must believe that time passes. Since when did Olivier Ginon invest in the LOU (long version: the "Lyon Olympic University" rugby club of the city)? First hesitation on his part. And since when is the majority shareholder? Second hesitation. Shortly after our interview, and after reflection, the interested party delivers to the World his answers by message: respectively since 2005 and 2016.
These dates make it possible to better understand the upcoming one: Sunday, June 9, the LOU will try to qualify for the final of the championship of France and to join the Stade Toulouse. He will play his half in Bordeaux (from 16 h 30), in neutral ground, facing Clermont. With the hope of doing even better than last season, where the club had already reached the semi-finals, losing his against Montpellier.
Obviously, Olivier Ginon attributes these results to a "Alchemy of sport, a complicated alchemy to do. " That takes time. " It's not : "I put money, and I have the result". " Perhaps. But perhaps also that the success of LOU, back in Top 14 just three years ago, is evaluated by the yardstick of the investments of its owner (who refuses to indicate the precise amount). The 60-year-old entrepreneur made his fortune through an event company, GL Events: "4,298 employees, 38% of whom are international", 1 billion euros in revenue in 2018, according to the website of the Lyon company.
LOU, the group's rugby subsidiary, can count this season on a projected budget of 29.8 million euros. Fifth of the championship. A necessity to carve a place in this championship of France which gives pride to the investors. "Today, the club has the human and financial resources to have a team that can compete in the Top 14. It is our goal to try to be always in the top six (in the final phase). "
Gérard Collomb in the fray
Since the mid-2000s, the general public has used these new leaders: Mohed Altrad in Montpellier, Jacky Lorenzetti in Racing, Mourad Boudjellal in Toulon. For his part, Olivier Ginon claims a certain "Discretion". "Put me in the newspapers in sports, it's not my philosophy of life. I am not at all in the image search, but I want to accompany my city, and especially in rugby. "
Without doubt, in another register, did he taste the exhibition of the World in 2016: the newspaper quoted GL Events in the "Panama Papers" case, for an offshore company now liquidated. Or again this article of Mediapart: in 2018, the site mentioned"Large discounts" granted to the candidate Emmanuel Macron, during the presidential campaign of 2017, for the hiring of certain meeting rooms. "The discounts (…) correspond to a usual commercial negotiation with an organizer of events ", Olivier Ginon told the National Commission of Campaign Accounts and Political Financing.
The entrepreneur is especially close to Gerard Collomb, macronist support from the first hour. This proximity with the mayor of Lyon (and former minister of the interior) also explains his entry into the capital of the rugby club of Lyon, there are now fourteen years. "I was looking to expand our sponsorship environment, so Gerard Collomb made the entre-deux between Olivier Ginon and me", summarizes Yvan Patet. The latter chaired the LOU until December 2012. Since then, the president of the club returns to Yann Roubert, employee of GL Events.
Rugby ? Olivier Ginon admits it: he discovered it late. The man said he now attends all home games. That is to say at the Stade Gerland (35 000 places) since 2016; the stadium occupied by Olympique Lyonnais footballers before their own move. And that is to say, before, at "Matmut Stadium" (12,000 seats) between 2011 and 2015; the stadium that the rugby club had built in Vénissieux and whose name it had sold to an insurance company.
"A marketing concern"
Now, the LOU plays in a stage Gerland half full (or half empty, perspective question): more than 17 000 spectators on average this season, despite the competition of football in the metropolis. «At Vuillermet Stadium (the enclosure of Lyon where the club was until 2011)there were 1,500 spectators per game when playing in the second division », recalls Olivier Ginon.
To bring spectators (only the oldest have lived the two Lyon titles of champion of France, in 1932 and 1933 …), LOU first recruited known players. Sébastien Chabal and Lionel Nallet in 2012, to start. In addition to being "Very good professionals", there was also "A marketing concern" behind their coming.
To find consistency, it was then necessary to bring in a coach. Since 2015, this one is called Pierre Mignoni. The former assistant Rugby club Toulon has brought the LOU in the first division in his first season, after two returns of the club followed by relegation. His contract extends until 2023. "Just to show that the club and the group have a long-term vision", wants to believe both the boss of LOU and GL Events.