'Sad and despondent' ISL 'bagman' Weber dies with dignity
Various - 22 Feb 2018
By Callum Murray
Jean-Marie Weber, the infamous ‘bagman’ who was the former general director of ISMM, the holding company of the ISL sports agency, which collapsed in 2001 with debts of €450 million ($552 million) amid allegations of bribery and corruption, has died.
The agency, which had acted on behalf of the International Olympic Committee and Fifa, among other top sports organisations, was alleged to have paid bribes worth SFr138 million ($147 million). Weber was himself found guilty of embezzlement in relation to a secret bank account used by the company to win television and sponsorship deals, and fined SFr84,000.
In a case that dragged on for years, prosecution authorities in the Swiss canton of Zug said in 2010 that Fifa officials received money in the scandal. In July 2008, six former senior executives of ISL had escaped jail on corruption charges when a Swiss court found three of them only partially guilty and exonerated the other three.
Meanwhile, Fifa was ordered to pay SFr117,000 in costs.
Then in 2013, the late João Havelange, the former president of Fifa, resigned as honorary president of world soccer’s governing body after being named as a recipient of bribes in the case. Havelange led Fifa between 1974 and 1998, when he was replaced by Sepp Blatter.
As well as Havelange, his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira and Nicolás Leoz of Paraguay were named as having received bribes in the case, which involved millions of dollars in kickbacks from World Cup contracts marketed by ISL.
The investigation into the failure of ISL and ISMM was launched following an initial complaint by Fifa, although the governing body later withdrew from the case, saying that it wished to pursue the matter through the civil courts.
In the years that followed ISL’s collapse, Weber was often seen alone on the periphery of major sports gatherings, such as the annual Sportel convention.
Patrick Nally, the sports marketing pioneer, tweeted yesterday: “I heard today that Jean-Marie Weber, Horst Dassler’s ‘bag man’ and my bête noire when ISL stole my business, passed away yesterday. He cut a very sad and despondent figure at the end of his career. I hope he ‘sleeps in peace’.”
Weber was seen as the right-hand man of Dassler, the son of the founder of the Adidas sportswear empire. Dassler, who was regarded as one of the fathers of sports sponsorship (along with Nally), died an untimely death in 1987 at the age of 51.
Nally told Sportcal today: “Jean-Marie didn’t actually create anything for himself. He was the accountant or bagman working with Horst. He became a powerful person more by default because of the untimely death of Horst. He didn’t have the imagination, understanding or relationships with these people [sports leaders]. For a while ISL had great programmes with football, the Olympics and everything else, and he hit dizzy heights for a period, but when it collapsed he became a dejected figure.”
A former ISL colleague said that Weber was not primarily to blame for ISL’s downfall, telling Sportcal: “I worked with him as closely as anyone in the world. Jean-Marie tried to follow in the footsteps of Horst. With Horst he saw and became close with the major federations. Initially he was extremely successful and helped ISL to become the world’s number-one sports agency in terms of federation contracts.
“What happened was he was doing a great job and going in the right direction, but unfortunately certain individuals from the Adidas clan destroyed ISL through greed and hubris. It became impossible for Jean-Marie to control and maybe he got sucked in. Without the Adidas clan, ISL would still be in business.”
Another ex-colleague regards Weber as having been clearly a victim, not a progenitor, of the scandal. He said: “JMW was a loyal and hard-working member of Horst’s inner team. However, when Horst was alive, he [Weber] had no executive authority. He did what he was told and was good at it.
“After Horst’s death JMW stumbled in to the chairmanship of ISL. A chairman is meant to represent the best interests of the shareholders. A few years later ISL was bankrupt. Not because of anything that JMW did but because of what he did not do. The shareholders were not well served.
“JMW was a generous, charming person with goodwill in his heart. He suffered greatly in the last few years and handled his decline with dignity.”