Jean-Michel Aulas has been replaced as supremo at Lyon – the club he steered from second division obscurity to the pinnacles of the domestic championship, it emerged on Monday.
John Textor, the majority shareholder since a buyout deal last June, will take over from 74-year-old Aulas as chairman of the board and chief executive of Olympique Lyonnais.
The move confirms the American tycoon as one of the most powerful executives in French football.
Aulas, who made his fortune in management and accounting software packages, took over as president of OL in 1987 at the age of 38 when the club was in Ligue 2.
Under coach Raymond Domenech, the side gained promotion to Ligue 1 in 1989. But the club had to wait more than a decade for its first piece of silverware with Aulas.
However, that 2001 Coupe de la Ligue trophy was followed by a period of sustained excellence.
Between 2002 and 2008, Lyon won seven straight Ligue 1 crowns, they also claimed the French Super Cup six times during that period.
The women’s team has also enjoyed even more success with a record 15 top flight titles and nine Coupe de France victories.
They have also notched up a record eight Champions League crowns since the inception of competition in 2001 as the Uefa Women’s Cup.
“OL Groupe sincerely thanks Jean-Michel Aulas for his commitment and unreserved dedication to Olympique Lyonnais over more than three decades, ”Said a club statement.
Aulas, who has been one of the most charismatic personalities in the French football firmament, will retain his links with the club as honorary chairman even though the original deal with Textor said he would stay as club president until 2025.
“OL Groupe is pleased to continue to benefit from the expertise and guidance of Jean-Michel Aulas,”
“All stakeholders are grateful to him for his commitment and leadership qualities, which have enabled the club to become a major player in European football for both men and women.”The club statement added.
Details of the ructions in the corridors of power at the club came hours after Lyon completed a thrilling victory over Montpellier.
Laurent Blanc’s players trailed 4-1 at the Groupama Stadium on Sunday night. But Alexandre Lacazette thrashed home a penalty in second-half stoppage-time to give them a 5-4 triumph.
The win took Lyon to the same number of points as sixth-placed Rennes and within touching distance of the berth that leads to next season’s Europa Conference League.
That third tier European competition remains a far cry from Textor’s aspirations.
At the press conference last June just after his investments had been revealed, Textor said his target was sustained rivalry with serial Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain as well as success in the Champions League.
Neither of those goals have been realised.
Lyon lie 22 points behind PSG who increased their lead at the top to six points following a 3-1 win at Troyes on Sunday night.
“The priority of the new chairman and CEO and the board of directors will be to strengthen Olympique Lyonnais’ position on the world football stage, in line with the highest ambitions of its illustrious history,”The club added.