Football: who is John Textor, the virtual pioneer who wants to make Olympique Lyonnais his reality?

Football: who is John Textor, the virtual pioneer who wants to make Olympique Lyonnais his reality?

A businessman with a thousand lives is about to pack his bags in Lyon. The wealthy American John Textor, on the way to becoming the majority shareholder of Olympique Lyonnais as announced by the club on Monday June 20 –, is in reality, above all, a pioneer of virtual reality. In 2016, Forbes magazine portrayed John Textor as “Hollywood Virtual Reality Guru”, nickname which then came to consecrate the activity of the American entrepreneur in this market. But who is this American, former skateboarder, pioneer of holograms and passionate about football? Portrait.

In the 2000s, it was in the cinema that the former computer programmer mystified the spectators. From 2006 to 2012, the businessman chaired the board of directors of Digital Domain, a special effects studio for the big screen created by Canadian director James Cameron. Besides his participation in films like transformers, Tron: Legacy and a part of the saga Pirates of the Caribbeanthe studio made a name for itself by aging ultra-realistically Brad Pitt in The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttonin 2008.

The company having gone bankrupt in 2012, John Textor then launched Pulse Evolution, which develops holograms, in particular of deceased stars. In 2012, she managed to bring the American rapper Tupac Shakur, who died in 1996, to the Coachella festival (California), under the astonished eyes of the public. In 2014, it was Michael Jackson’s turn to be reborn at the Billboard Music Awards. These two performances are viewed millions of times on Youtube, contributing to the development of this technology.

After striving to recreate stars, the Missouri-born businessman has taken another step by embarking on artificial intelligence. He created EvolutionAI and declared on his website to dedicate his career to “the creation of digital humans who help improve humanity.”

The 56-year-old American has been a recognized professional skateboarder in the late 70s. Following his sporting achievements and his career in cinema, he co-founded FuboTv, a streaming service focused on the live broadcast of sporting events. Which led him to turn to football. In July 2021, he first tried to take over Benfica, to no avail. The following month, he turned to England, acquiring shares in Crystal Palace, a club in the southern suburbs of London playing in the Premier League.

John Textor then seized Botafogo, a historic Brazilian club, by taking over 90% of its capital. He then returned to Europe and acquired 80% of the shares of RWD Molenbeek, which aims to return to the elite of Belgian football. “John Textor is a football enthusiast who also wants to invest in our young people”has recently explained Thierry Dailly, president of the club.

His fiery tweets on Botafogo attest to his commitment, even if the American is above all a businessman. “Football is no different from any other business. You have to win to be profitable”, he told CNN last March. By preparing to become the majority shareholder of Olympique Lyonnais, John Textor acquires a club whose glorious past seems to be only a hologram in recent seasons as OL’s sporting results have proved to be disappointing. From virtual to reality there is sometimes only one step. Will John Textor cross it?

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