LIGUE 1 – Who is John Textor, OL’s new majority shareholder?

A smart mix of technology and football. This is certainly what would best characterize John Textor, the future majority shareholder of OL Groupe. But before making a name for himself in Hollywood and then in the Premier League, the 56-year-old American first made a name for himself, on a smaller scale, on the skateboarding ramps in Florida.

Originally from a “middle class family” in Missouri, as he fondly remembers, John Textor was first part of the “Sims Skateboards team”, a reference in the discipline in which he performed in the 1970s at the time. Not just “good” on the board, he was subsequently billed as one of the few skaters to beat multiple world champion Rodney Mullen in freestyle competition.

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Virtual reality guru in Hollywood

Unfortunately for him, John Textor had to store his board in the garage after a fall that led to a serious head injury in the early 80s. Anxious to find a new passion, the American then launched into Tech. A successful gamble, because this now enormously wealthy businessman, whose fortune is estimated at 3 billion euros, was seen by Forbes in 2016 as the “Hollywood virtual reality guru”.

Because after making himself known in the world of American urban sports, it was through the film studios that John Textor became a key figure in Californian show business. Not in front of the camera but in the shadow of the biggest stars of Hollywood cinema. Trained as a computer programmer, the former skateboard champion is therefore going to work with virtual reality.

From 2006 to 2012, the entrepreneur served as chairman of the board of Digital Domain, a special effects studio founded by Titanic president James Cameron. On the big screen, the 2000s saw a lot of movies marked by the John Textor touch: Transformers, Tron: Legacy or even Pirates of the Caribbean. One of his masterpieces remains Brad Pitt’s physical transformation in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), for which he won an Oscar.

Here in the premises of his company Digital Domain in 2012, John Textor is preparing to become majority shareholder of OL Groupe.

Credit: Getty Images

hologram maker

After the cinema, Textor tackles music, while maintaining his specialty. At the Coachella festival (California), he left the tens of thousands of spectators speechless by showing the hologram of the famous rapper Tupac Shakur, murdered in 1996. He did it again in 2014 with Michael Jackson, at the Billboard Music Awards.

After tasting in the midst of artists, the American businessman digs a little deeper into technology and is interested in artificial intelligence. He then founded Evolution AI. This company “intends to develop a robust library of fully functional human faces and characters, enabling people to interact with major artificial intelligence platforms”, he describes on the homepage of his site.

The foray into football

At the same time, John Textor decides to return to his first love: sports. He started by investing in a sports event streaming platform by creating FuboTv. This decision will bring him gently to the center of football. But for once, his efforts were in vain for a while.

Newcastle, Brentford, Watford and then Benfica (25% stake) in July 2021, Textor suffered several failures before finally turning to Crystal Palace, of which he bought 18% stake. Along the way, the investor then acquired Brazilian club Botafogo (90% stake) before returning to Europe to take RWD Molenbeek (80%), aiming to return to the Belgian first division.

Passionate but clear, Textor doesn’t hesitate to rephrase things when his checkbook stirs excitement even before seeing the results on the spot. As his comments when he took over Botafogo: “I’ve heard commentators say that a successful start would be to qualify for the Copa Sudamericana. I think it will be a good start if we don’t relegate.”

At ease with social networks, he uses Twitter to perfection when it comes to conveying his ideas or to cry, such as when he believes a penalty was wrongly called against his team:It is a pity ! We need to clean up Brazilian football. Savio Pereira Sampaio, you must give up (referee) for the good of our sport† Qualities that bring him a little closer to his future CEO, Jean-Michel Aulas, whose Twitter verve has little equal in the midst of French football. A future duo of word snipers washed away?

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