PtG Comment 28.02.2018

Jean-Marie Weber, the biggest bag man in Olympic history

One of the most significant persons in the history of IOC marketing past away last week. In his daily and very personal tales from the Olympic hotel lobbies in PyeongChang, journalist and blogger Jens Weinreich wrote about the death of Jean-Marie Weber and his important role in the world of modern sport. Play the Game brings an adapted version in English.

Last Thursday, at the Intercontinental Hotel, I met IOC honorary member Issa Hayatou, longtime FIFA vice president and interim FIFA boss, until Gianni Infantino took over power after Sepp Blatter. Hayatou was traveling with his wife and looked better than at any time during the past twenty years, during which he spent days and days as a dialysis patient and in a very serious condition.

The disease is defeated, Hayatou said. He was in a good mood, he wants to focus on being well in the last few years, he does not want to talk about comic topics like Russian doping, FIFA or the Confederation Africaine de Football (CAF), where he set the tone for three decades. Issa Hayatou wants to enjoy his retirement, oh well, he's only 71 years old.

Why do I write this? Life constantly creates strange stories. It goes up and down, like a roller coaster.

A roller coaster of emotions.

Hayatou is doing so well. He once received bribes from the sports marketing company ISL that collapsed in 2001, and its ‘bag man’, Jean-Marie Weber. The IOC and its ethics committee did not think it was that bad. And Hayatou offered Weber a few small jobs at CAF until the very end. As did then IAAF president Lamine Diack. 

At least two friends and bribe takers within the Olympic family did not forget Weber.

Jean-Marie Weber had a task. 

This day, I also met with the former secretary of the ethics committee, who now holds the post of chief ethics and compliance officer, in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel. Pâquerette Girard Zappelli laughed when she saw me, because she found my profile photo on Twitter (with the Olympic glasses) funny.

These meetings were a bit of a coincidence. First Issa Hayatou, then Pâquerette Girard Zappelli ... and three hours later I read a sad tweet from Patrick Nally that combined all this.

To those who do not know Nally: He used to be the partner of Adidas boss Horst Dassler and is one of the architects behind the top sponsorship-focused Olympic marketing system, which is in use today for the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Champions League. The system was refined by Dassler, Weber, the former ISL managers Jürgen Hempel and Klaus Lenz, Michael Payne, Richard Pound and a few others.

Patrick Nally’s tweet wrote:               

Jean-Marie Weber died.

My sympathy goes to his family, sons and grandchildren. His wife died a few years ago.

Many people will be surprised by these lines. However, if you have followed my long-term coverage of Jean-Marie Weber, Horst Dassler, the Adidas and ISL bribe system, you will know that I liked Jean-Marie Weber.

In spite of everything.

The Alsatian was, at least in his last years, a sympathetic bribe payer, not a big crook. Not someone who enriched himself immensely. At the height of his power, as an ISL supremo in the 1990s, he was naturally also cold and brutal.

His work ethics were amazing, in every way. He was a trained puppet master.

He could be charming while at the same time stiff and dry. He impressed me with his opera knowledge. Wherever Jean-Marie travelled, he first studied the programme of theatres and opera houses. In this regard, he was a gourmand.

After my friend Andrew Jennings took his website offline, you may not be able to find as detailed information about the ISL affair and all its complications as on my blog. Incidentally, here you will also find the complete ISL bribe money list. I have had the honour of giving several presentations on the ISL system at Play the Game conferences.

The ISL corruption system was the blueprint for many other crooks who are on trial in Brooklyn. Anyone who has ever looked at the indictments in the ISL process and the US lawsuits on the FIFA family will easily see the similarities.

Jean-Marie Weber is one of the key figures in the Olympic marketing and corruption story.

After a few years’ ice age, we were regularly in touch, Weber and I. The ISL criminal case in Zug didn’t change this.

One night, I paid for the red wine and the steak, the next time, he did.

Actually, it was Jean-Marie’s turn.

I knew for a long time that it would never happen. For a long time, he only perceived the world around him to a limited extend.

Jean-Marie Weber will take the remaining secrets from the gigantic bribery system of Adidas and ISL to the grave.

That's what he told me for the first time in July 2001, if I remember correctly, in front of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, just before Juan Antonio Samaranch ended his time as president of the IOC. At that time, Giselle was running, Samaranch’s favourite ballet. Samaranch, who died in 2010, was sitting in the front row next to Vladimir Putin. A few days later, Jacques Rogge was elected IOC President, then Beijing as Olympic City 2008. And a second Juan Antonio Samaranch, the junior, was admitted to the IOC.

Another coincidence: Last Thursday morning, on the way to the Olympic Club, I spoke about Moscow, Russia and his father's legacy, with Juan Antonio Samaranch, the current IOC Vice President.

Sometimes I do not believe in coincidences.

But someone must have been directing this.

To have that many stories and encounters that blend into each other within a few hours.

Jean-Marie Weber personally distributed most of the litigated 142 ISL bribe millions. He may have distributed a similar amount in addition to this on behalf of Horst Dassler. Dassler, the ISL founder and Adidas-Zampano, who died in 1987 of eye cancer - and who had also been, between 1985 and 1987, the boss and instructor of the man, who now serves as IOC president: Thomas Bach.

I found it amusing to listen to Weber's stories about Horst Dassler, whom he called his boss or maybe even his patronLe Patron, because in Landersheim in Alsace, Dassler had his French branch, Adidas France.

More than two decades after Dassler's death, Jean-Marie would often say:

“You know, Herr Weinreich, how the patron was!”

But I did not know. Of course not. When Dassler died, I lived on the other side of the Berlin wall, deep in the east, and was a student.

Jean-Marie forgot again and again. And laughed about it, if I reminded him.

I would have liked to know more, though, and hear more stories about the Patron, who liked to call up his employees in the middle of the night, who did not care where they were or who they were with, they were always on the job - 24/7. He was a visionary and knew how to buy votes, people, events, associations – in West and East, South and North.

So, I took every opportunity to speak with Jean-Marie, always knowing that we would never cross  certain lines.

“I will take that with me to the grave.”

This sentence remains. Jean-Marie not only said this to me, lawyers also have it on record.


“I would have to fear for my life if I told everything.”

Patrick Nally again:

It is striking that two of the formative figures of the Olympic World have died during the last two games. They were, each in their own way, genuine Olympians, until the very last:

  • João Havelange, the kickback cashier and eternal FIFA patron, the partner of Horst Dassler and Patrick Nally, the boss of Joseph Blatter, died as a centenarian during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

  • Jean-Marie Weber, Dassler's secretary, accountant and money-broker, adviser to Havelange, Blatter, Hayatou, Diack, pay-off for dozens of top officials in IOC, FIFA, FINA, OCA, UEFA, IAAF, ATP, AIBA, FIBA, etc ... died at the age of 75 during the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang

Weber often told me that he talked to me and liked our meetings, because he appreciated a person that takes his job seriously. He learned to accept that I rummaged in his past and tried to figure out his business, like my friends Andrew Jennings or Jean-François Tanda and very few other journalists.

I once published tons of ISL documents with Thomas Kistner, a world exclusive, in 2001. We were also the first to report on the existence of the legendary bribery fund ‘Nunca’. Some of it can be found on my blog, nowhere else. The history of ISL and everything connected with it, the life of Jean-Marie Weber, is far from exhausted, far from fully described.

It never will be.

But the journalistic journey continues while Weber's journey is over.

Patrick Nally is right. Until the very end, Weber was a loyal servant to his patron Horst Dassler. Rest in peace, Jean-Marie.

Further reading 

Read more from Jens Weinreich on his blog:

Read a comment by Jens Sejer Andersen about the publication of the ISL file in 2012:

Read a speech about the ISL affair given by Jens Sejer Andersen at aUCSIA international workshop in 2010:

Read a presentation given by Jens Weinreich about the ISL at Play the Game 2009:

Read a presentation given by Andrew Jennings about the ISL affair at Play the Game 2007:

Related articles about FIFA and ISL

FIFA sign
PtG Article 07.12.2015
FBI investigates Sepp Blatter through ISL link
PtG Comment 03.05.2013
FIFA’s new Ethics Committee fails first test
PtG Article 30.04.2013
Blatter cleared by FIFA ISL examination
PtG Article 24.04.2013
Nicolas Leoz resigns from FIFA ExCo
PtG Article 04.12.2012
Blatter faces “once in a lifetime opportunity”
PtG Comment 02.04.2012
Pieth’s prudent paper and Blatter’s play for time
PtG Article 02.11.2011
Sums of bribes for top FIFA officials exposed at hearing in Brazil
PtG Article 21.10.2011
FIFA announces reform process against corruption
PtG Article 30.11.2010
FIFA dismisses BBC corruption claims, IOC prepares investigation
PtG Article 29.11.2010
New revelations: FIFA Executives named as ISL bribe-takers
PtG Article 19.10.2010
The Magicians of Sport: How the Greatest Corruption Scandal in World Sport Vanished Before We Knew It Existed
PtG Article 24.06.2010
Prosecutor's office links FIFA officials to bribery scandal
PtG Article 09.07.2008
Only minor convictions in corruption case against ISL executives
PtG Article 08.04.2008
ISL embezzlement case closes – verdict expected 2 July 2008
PtG Article 13.03.2008
Swiss judge reveals sport’s largest corruption scandal ever in trial against FIFA partners
PtG Article 27.06.2007
FIFA reorganises before ISL court case opens in March next year
PtG Article 29.09.2006
Swiss magistrate accuses FIFA official of taking bribes
PtG Article 08.09.2006
FIFA does not feel obliged to work with difficult journalists
PtG Article 23.06.2006
Jennings claims FIFA paid back bribes money to ISL
PtG Article 02.06.2006
What FIFA lost on ISL
PtG Article 02.06.2006
Timeline FIFA ISL
PtG Article 02.06.2006
The Globo money that never showed up
PtG Article 02.06.2006
The fall of ISL
PtG Article 02.06.2006
Mysterious repayment of bribes
PtG Article 02.06.2006
FIFA's transparency offensive
PtG Article 30.11.2005
In the wake of the ISL collapse
PtG Article 11.11.2002
The big bubble - the crackdown of ISL/ISMM, a marketing giant