Class Act on Netflix is a new drama series based on the life and works of one of the most controversial figures in recent French history—Bernard Tapie. Born into a middle-class family, Bernard Tapie rose to fame and wealth out of his will and determination to make it big, but he also faced numerous controversies that led to a loss of respect and stature. While most of the major events in the series are based on real incidents, many parts of the show, particularly the man’s personal and familial aspects, are all fictional in nature. Class Act can be given a watch to grasp a faint idea about the man, even though it does not present anything remarkable or unique.
Plot Summary: What is the Series About?
The Netflix series Class Act begins in 1966, when the protagonist Bernard Tapie was already a grown man, in his twenties. Originally intending to be a professional singer, Bernard had participated in a singing competition in Paris and dreamed of making it big in the field, touring the world for events. As we see the entire Tapie family and friends gather to watch the singing competition on TV, Bernard expresses all his dreams to everyone. The man had already started borrowing money in order to reach his dreams, starting with his boss, and this gradually led to a problematic situation for him.
By 1970, Bernard Tapie had no option but to work as a television salesman. Despite performing well in the singing competition, the man was not deemed good enough to do anything more in the field. Working for his father’s plumbing business is also not something that Bernard wants to do since he is often frustrated by his father’s limited expectations of life. Instead, the man once again looks for money in order to present an idea that he believes to be revolutionary.
Bernard wants to open a chain of electronic goods stores across Paris that he would run based on a subscription system. Customers would have to pay monthly fees to shop at the stores, and in return, they could buy anything at large discounts. Bernard’s plan is that the subscription model would allow him to give such large discounts, which would bring all customers to him and leave his competitors in the mud. The man’s negotiations with the bank completely fail, as they do not find him serious enough to invest in. At this time, he comes across a construction business investor, Marcel Loiseau, who agrees to invest in his business, but on the condition that Bernard owns only 40% of the company.
Once the electronic goods stores open up, the subscription model does work out, and business booms. Things look great for Bernard and his family, consisting of his wife Michelle and their young daughter Stephanie. But Bernard’s mind diverted towards a different woman—Loiseau’s personal assistant, Dominique. Despite Loiseau having categorically warned him against doing so, Bernard gets involved with Dominique, and they soon start an affair. Almost immediately, Loiseau reveals everything to the Tapie family and also legally ousts Bernard from their joint company. Having lost both his wife and business, Bernard Tapie still looks for ways to make it big in life.
How did Bernard Tapie rise to fame?
Despite his occasional intent to get things done the easy way, Bernard Tapie was always thinking of ways to start businesses and succeed in life. As he himself claimed, his dream now was to reach the very top, and perhaps the man’s ambitions did not know limits. The beginning of his career is presented in a rather interesting and motivational way in Class Act, since the man would always be in search of business ideas and plans. One such situation came when his father suffered a heart issue, and Bernard first met with a doctor named Serge Nahon. It was from this doctor that Bernard learned that the number of ambulances operating in Paris was very low compared to the many emergency patients that needed medical help every day. Seeing this as an opportunity to both help people get faster treatment to avoid more complications and also to make a successful business, Bernard jumped into the matter.
Forming a group called Heart Assistance with his girlfriend Dominique and Dr. Nahon, Bernard presented it to the council of doctors for more approval and team members. He also made demonstration videos of the company’s work with his friends, who stepped in as actors. But lying and over-exaggerating his numbers was always a part of Bernard’s character, and now, too, he claimed to have exponentially more subscribers than he actually did. The Heart Assistance team was called upon for help by many panicking Parisians, but there were simply not enough doctors or specialists yet to operate, and so eventually, Dr. Serge Nahon himself quit. No longer willing to play with the lives of patients in this manner, Nahon left the group, and the Heart Assistance business failed.
Bernard worked a few months in the plumbing business along with his father, but this only increased frustration and bitterness in his life. Deciding to give himself another chance, he now approached a lawyer named Fabien Bogaert, who had earlier represented Marcel Loiseau, in search of businesses to acquire. The time was already better for acquisitions than creating businesses from scratch, and so Bernard came up with his first maverick idea. He wanted to acquire a renowned but struggling publishing company named Diguet-Deny with only one franc from the courts, but for that, he needed the court’s trust. For this, he had to acquire a smaller company, and he did this by taking a loan from the bank, buying the company for a decreased price, using its assets to pay off the debt, and, in the process, earning an instant profit for the bank as well. This move also got Bernard closer to the banks, and soon, he acquired Diguet-Deny and brought it back to its earlier days.
But neither Bernard nor the equally ambitious Dominique wanted to stop at this. After hearing that the aristocratic husband of Dominique’s friend was about to buy off the very established tire company Wonder, they decided to try and get the company for themselves. From the Heart Assistance days, Dominique had been close to Bernard’s business dealings, and now she was all the closer since Diguet-Deny was registered under her name, as Bernard was banned from owning businesses after the incident with Marcel Loiseau. Buying Wonder was an even more difficult process since the strong workers’ union supported the aristocratic businessman Alexis Cleret de Grandval, over Bernard, as the latter was bringing no money into the business. Like his previous acquisitions, Bernard Tapie intended to buy the esteemed but financially struggling company with only one franc.
By this time, Bernard’s dealings with the workers at Diguet-Deny had become quite well-known and appreciated by labor unions, so there was still some support for him. He knew that turning the union against de Grandval would be enough for him to get the business, and so the man came up with a crafty but ludicrous idea. By making his close friend and his secretary pretend to be the Emir of Dubai and the sheikh’s French intermediary, respectively, Bernard managed to trick de Grandval. The aristocrat agreed a verbal deal with the fake sheikh that he would sell Wonder to the Arabs and the Chinese right after he acquired the company and also agreed to move the company to China. This entire conversation was taped by Bernard, and he then presented it to the labor union, claiming that de Grandval did not really care about the workers. Since moving the company to China would result in all the French workers losing their jobs, the union immediately supported Bernard Tapie’s deal, and he acquired Wonder for a meager amount of one franc.
As someone always interested in making public appearances, Bernard Tapie appeared on many television programs and shows during this time, and both these instances, as well as his business skills, brought him to the attention of the erstwhile French President as well. For some time, Bernard joined the Socialist Party, but eventually had to step down. It was around this time that his most accomplished successes came after he acquired Adidas and then the historic Olympique Marseille football club. While the Adidas deal also did not last very long, Bernard pushed OM towards major success. Class Act also covers the crucial time in 1993, when Marseille became the first French club to have European glory after they won the illustrious Champions League competition. But from this very moment on, Bernard Tapie’s image and reputation started to take massive, unprecedented hits.
What ultimately led to Tapie’s downfall?
Controversies and negativities started to come Bernard’s way within a few years after his first success. Despite promising to make a number of welfare changes for the workers at Wonder, Bernard did almost nothing for them over the next number of years. This led to extreme displeasure among the workers, who started to strike for their rights while the owner was preparing to make a grand appearance on a TV program. Although he did agree to make amends for the situation for the workers after this incident, Bernard’s words had to be taken with suspicion by now. When he acquired Wonder and had to make up for the existing losses at the company, Bernard Tapie ultimately sold Diguet-Deny to the Asians via a French businessman named Charles Coupant. This meant that the publishing business was moved out of France, and all the workers Bernard pretended to be so protective of had lost their livelihood.
Bernard Tapie entered the world of politics and wanted to bring massive changes to the lives of youngsters who were often turning bad because of a lack of a good, proper family life. Dominique did not really approve of this, and she spent her time and effort studying the losses of her husband’s businesses and trying to even them out. But around the same time, Charles Coupant returned to Bernard’s life with serious allegations against him that he had hidden the figures of the exact sale amount in the Digue-Deny trade. This allegation was indeed true, and despite Bernard wanting to stubbornly fight Coupant, he was advised not to. Both parties accepted a monetary settlement, and once again, it was Dominique’s intelligence that saved millions for Bernard. But the scandal was too much for his political career to deal with, and soon, the Socialist Party forced Bernard into resigning. The matter also led to Bernard having to sell off Adidas as well.
Following this first fall from grace, Bernard then focused entirely on the running of his football club, and the man started taking a very active role. He starts to directly take the club’s decisions, sometimes even selecting the starting lineup for the team’s matches. Bernard’s intention was to win the domestic Ligue 1 competition over fierce rivals Paris Saint-Germain and also win the Champions League in Europe. He knew that Marseille being crowned the first French champions in Europe would be remembered forever, and in order to help his team, Bernard once again took some extremely risky decisions.
Just before OM were supposed to play AC Milan in the European final, they had a Ligue 1 match against lowly Valenciennes. The coaches harped on the need to rest the star players in this match, but losing the match could also lead to PSG winning the title. Bernard, therefore, wanted to start all his star players, and instead turned to illegal means. With the help of his sporting director, Jean-Pierre Bernes, the owner paid off three Valenciennes players to fix the result of the match. However, one of these three players, Jacques Glassman, could not bear the guilt of it and soon complained to the referee about this incident after the match. The matter then reached the office of the public prosecutor, Eric de Montgolfier, who was determined to punish the perpetrators.
A thorough investigation was carried out, and a stash of money was found hidden in the garden of one of the bribed players’ aunt’s houses. The amount and description presented by Glassman completely matched, and this became an important piece of evidence. After Bernes was called to the prosecutor’s office, Bernard himself went to meet with Montgolfier and tried to bribe him onto his side. However, this further messed up the situation, and ultimately, Bernard Tapie was found guilty of match-fixing, leading to his immediate resignation as the owner and director of Olympique Marseille.
What followed in Tapie’s life after the match-fixing scandal?
Class Act spends a hefty amount of its total duration establishing the family life of Bernard Tapie, and in the end, it was this family that the man came back to. Many years after their relationship began, Bernard asked to marry Dominique in 1993, after Marseille’s European glory. He wanted to return to politics once again, desiring to be the mayor of Marseille and then eventually the President of France, but Dominique, once again, did not agree. However, the man’s plans were completely shattered when the match-fixing case against him became public, and he was ultimately found guilty of the crime. Bernard Tapie had to spend eight long months in prison because of the public prosecution case, and during this time, he realized his mistakes and decided to change his life.
During Class Act‘s ending, Dominique visits Bernard in prison, and the man apologizes for his actions. The wife forgives him since she does genuinely understand the ambitious desires that drove her husband into committing the crime. He then expresses his wish to step away from politics, sports, and business and retire to a life surrounded by family. Thus ends the tale of a man who once wanted to reach the sky but ultimately had to settle for a domestic, homely life in the end.