The year is 1987, Olympique Lyonnais is living one of its darkest days in Ligue 2 (French 2nd division). A young man, who has just become president of the club is promising to take Lyon to Ligue 1 in 2 years and make them play European football 2 years later.
He promised, he then delivered. Lyon played top-flight football in 1989 and Europa League in 1991. The young man turned out to be a man of his word.
The young man’s name is Jean Michel Aulas, he was 38 years old and he was just about to make history.
Jean Michel’s thinking is clear: a football club is a company, just like any other company. As part of his business administration, he turned the association to a sport limited company, created a holding (OL Holding) and started selling shares in an Initial Public Offering back in 2007.
JM’s ideas were innovative at the time, he would do whatever it takes to make the company earn more money and make it more profitable and have its own financial independence.
As a matter of a fact, the idea behind of putting the company in Initial Public Offering was to gather enough money for the club to build its own stadium, whose benefits will be exclusive to the club. (Lyon used to play in Stade Gerland, a municipal stadium).
Aulas’ vision turned Lyon into a club that is financially strong and whose estimated budget keeps on rising as you can see in the following graphic:
Jean Michel has not only brought more money to the club but also more fans to the stadiums, as you can see:
As mentioned earlier, Jean Michel Aulas is a man of his word. Taking Lyon to top-flight football and to the Europa League were his very first achievements.
The club had not won a major trophy since 1973 when they conquered the Coupe de France, it was not until 2001 that the club started winning titles again after their Coupe de la Ligue triumph.
Lyon holds the record of most consecutive Ligue 1 titles won. Their streak of 7 consecutive titles from 2002 to 2008 is still undefeated and no club has managed to come any close to it, not even mighty PSG.
Olympique Lyonnais’ academy was rated by L’Equipe as one of the best in Europe since it has the 2nd most graduates that evolve in European top 5 leagues. Likes of Karim Benzema, Rayan Cherki, Corentin Tolisso, Samuel Umtiti are all products of Lyon’s academy and are all making the whole world of football enjoy their talent.
His commitment to women’s football
Jean Michel Aulas is also one of the pioneers of women’s football. He finds in it a strong message that can be shared with the whole world through football.
JMA was one of the very first people to believe in women’s football establishment in France. He launched Lyon’s women team in 2004, and it is fair to say that it was quite successful.
With 13 league titles and 6 Champions Leagues, Lyon’s women are one of the strongest sides in Europe, if not THE strongest.
Now that women’s football in quickly developing throughout the world, most of the teams are inspired by Aulas’ way in doing things hoping they can achieve what Lyon did.
Jean Michel introduced many new concepts to football: companies, women football, he was also head of the Financial Fair Play committee as a member of the European Club Association’s board. It was until recently when he fought for Ligue 1 to resume that people started once again to value his genius, especially that France is the only country of the top 5 league to not have resumed its league.
Jean Michel Aulas, was, is and will always be ahead of his time.