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Billionaire Frenchman who has bought Sunderland FC at 23 years old

You would expect it to take a lifetime to build a fortune big enough to own one of the biggest football clubs in the country.

But Sunderland has today announced it has been taken over by a little-known billionaire – aged just 23. Kyril Louis-Dreyfus bought a controlling stake in the League One club and will become its chairman.

The Frenchman, who lives in Switzerland, is heir to the agricultural commodities giant Louis-Dreyfus and is believed to have a trust fund worth £2billion.

Despite his business background, Sunderland fans should not worry about his football interest. His Instagram, which has 23,000 followers, is littered with pictures with athletes such as Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé, Manchester City’s Benjamin Mendy and Crystal Palace’s Michy Batshuayi.

Other stars he has surrounded himself with include the boxer Floyd Mayweather and F1 champion Lewis Hamilton, who he has both appeared at parties with.

Outside of sport, he also appears close to other well known faces including former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy. The pair posed for a shot on a private plane in Biarritz, France, with the caption reading: ‘Mr President #2017.’

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is pictured playing ice hockey in Switzerland with who is believed to be his fiancee Alexandra Nowikovsky

The 23-year-old billionaire is pictured with the boxer Floyd Mayweather, who he appears to have partied with in the past

The 23-year-old billionaire is pictured with the boxer Floyd Mayweather, who he appears to have partied with in the past

He has also posed with F1 champion Lewis Hamilton on his star-studded Instagram account. Louis-Dreyfus's social media - his Instagram bio says he does not have Twitter or Facebook - showcases his billionaire lifestyle

He has also posed with F1 champion Lewis Hamilton on his star-studded Instagram account. Louis-Dreyfus’s social media – his Instagram bio says he does not have Twitter or Facebook – showcases his billionaire lifestyle

Outside of sport, he also appears close to other well known faces including former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy. The pair posed for a shot on a private plane in Biarritz, France, with the caption reading: 'Mr President #2017'

Outside of sport, he also appears close to other well known faces including former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy. The pair posed for a shot on a private plane in Biarritz, France, with the caption reading: ‘Mr President #2017’

Louis-Dreyfus’s social media – his Instagram bio says he does not have Twitter or Facebook – showcases his billionaire lifestyle and he appears to have admirers in the British aristocracy, with the polo-playing model George Spencer-Churchill, Marquess of Blandford, following his page.

Stunning photographs show him taking helicopter ‘day trips’ to theme parks, feeding cheetahs in Namibia and taking swanky holidays in the Maldives and Saint-Tropez.

It is hard to keep up with his jet set life – with photos posted from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, New York, Ibiza, the south of France, Switzerland, Africa and London.

But it appears the young heir has someone to keep him grounded – Alexandra Nowikovsky. He shared a picture of the two of them staring into each others’ eyes with the caption: ‘She said yes.’

Little is known about Ms Nowikovsky, but a picture shared on her fiance’s Instagram shows the brunette watching him play ice hockey in Switzerland while holding two small dogs.

it appears the young heir has someone to keep him grounded - a Ms Alexandra Nowikovsky. He shared a picture of the two of them staring into each others' eyes with the caption: 'She said yes'

Little is known about Ms Nowikovsky, but a picture shared on her fiance's Instagram shows the brunette watching him play ice hockey in Switzerland while holding two small dogs

It appears the young heir has someone to keep him grounded – a Ms Alexandra Nowikovsky. He shared a picture of the two of them staring into each others’ eyes with the caption: ‘She said yes.’ Little is known about Ms Nowikovsky, but a picture shared on her fiance’s Instagram shows the brunette watching him play ice hockey in Switzerland while holding two small dogs

Stunning photographs show him taking helicopter 'day trips' to theme parks, feeding cheetahs in Namibia and taking swanky holidays in the Maldives and Saint-Tropez

Stunning photographs show him taking helicopter ‘day trips’ to theme parks, feeding cheetahs in Namibia and taking swanky holidays in the Maldives and Saint-Tropez

Frenchman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is pictured at a party with former French footballer Franck Ribéry (pictured wearing a dinner suit)

Frenchman Kyril Louis-Dreyfus is pictured at a party with former French footballer Franck Ribéry (pictured wearing a dinner suit)

He is pictured in a selfie with Belgian professional footballer Michy Batshuayi, who is on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea

He is pictured in a selfie with Belgian professional footballer Michy Batshuayi, who is on loan at Crystal Palace from Chelsea

Louis-Dreyfus incredible wealth comes mostly from his parents – Margarita and the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus – and his father’s family business.

His family founded the Swiss-based Louis-Dreyfus group as a grain trading firm in 1851 and Robert built it up to be the global leader in agricultural commodities as well as managing hedge funds and sea vessels.

Robert became a well known figure after rescuing companies such as Adidas advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and built up his huge fortune. He later joined the family-owned commodities company founded by his great-grandfather, Leopold.

Forbes said in 1996 – a year before Louis-Dreyfus was born – he was ‘one of the shrewdest business minds in France’, where he was owner of Olympique Marseille football club.

The billionaire died aged 63 in Zurich in July 2009 from leukemia and the family businesses was taken over by his wife Margarita, who became chairman.

But the next few years were one of turmoil for the family as Margarita battled for over a decade with her dead husband’s relatives for the inheritance.

Louis-Dreyfus incredible wealth comes mostly from his parents - Margarita (pictured) and the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus - and his father's family business

Louis-Dreyfus incredible wealth comes mostly from his parents – Margarita (pictured) and the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus – and his father’s family business

Billionaire Kyril Louis-Dreyfus pictured with his mother Margarita, who runs the Louis-Dreyfus Group, which has an estimated worth of £26billion

Billionaire Kyril Louis-Dreyfus pictured with his mother Margarita, who runs the Louis-Dreyfus Group, which has an estimated worth of £26billion 

Robert become majority stakeholder of Marseille in 1996 but the family sold up in 2016

Robert become majority stakeholder of Marseille in 1996 but the family sold up in 2016

Robert (pictured in 2006) became a well known figure after rescuing companies such as Adidas advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and built up his huge fortune. He later joined the family-owned commodities company founded by his great-grandfather, Leopold

Robert (pictured in 2006) became a well known figure after rescuing companies such as Adidas advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi and built up his huge fortune. He later joined the family-owned commodities company founded by his great-grandfather, Leopold

Margarita was orphaned as an 11-year-old and raised by her grandfather in Leningrad. She studied law and economics in Moscow and Leningrad before flogging electronic components in her native Russia.

But her life changed dramatically when she met Robert on a flight from Zurich to London in 1988 and they married in 1992. They had three sons – Eric in 1992 and twins Maurice and Kyril in 1997 – before Robert died.

Since then she is understood to have a new partner – Philipp Hildebrand, the vice chairman of US investment management company BlackRock. She gave birth to their twins – Isabella Hildebrand and Arina Hildebrand – in 2016 when she was 53.

Glamorous Margarita, whose second cousin once removed is the US actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus, has said her main focus is ‘to ensure the long-term survival of the company and the name of the company,’ during a Bloomberg interview in 2012.

This appears to be well on track as she bought out Robert’s family’s shares in Louis-Dreyfus group – increasing her shares from 50 per cent to 96 per cent – and posted a revenue of £26billion in 2018. Forbes estimates 58-year-old Margarita’s worth to be approximately £4.25billion.

Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who was involved at Adidas and Saatchi & Saatchi, passed away in 2009

Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who was involved at Adidas and Saatchi & Saatchi, passed away in 2009

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus wears face paint as he cries during a tribute to his father Robert Louis-Dreyfus in Marseille after he died in 2009

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus wears face paint as he cries during a tribute to his father Robert Louis-Dreyfus in Marseille after he died in 2009

Olympique Marseille's president Vincent Labrune talks with Kyril, son of the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus before their Champions League football match against Arsenal at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille in 2011

Olympique Marseille’s president Vincent Labrune talks with Kyril, son of the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus before their Champions League football match against Arsenal at the Velodrome stadium in Marseille in 2011

At Sunderland, Louis-Dreyfus is looking to elude the lack of major silverware during his father’s time at Marseille. Robert became majority shareholder of the French side in 1996 and transformed the club’s fortunes following a match-fixing scandal that overshadowed the club.

He invested heavily in rebuilding the squad and the club became popular among new immigrant populations in Marseille. It reached two UEFA Cup finals under Robert’s ownership, but major silverware eluded them as they lost out on both occasions.

Ownership of the Ligue 1 club changed hands in 2016 as the family sold up to former LA Dodgers owner Frank McCourt.

The family also owned a small share of Belgian side Standard Liege – the club’s academy is named after Robert. Louis-Dreyfus regularly attended Marseille games while his family were in control of the club.

Louis-Dreyfus has been in attendance at Sunderland’s recent matches in League One against Shrewsbury Town and Doncaster Rovers.

He said of the takeover: ‘I would like to thank Stewart, the Board of Directors and the EFL for their diligence and support throughout the recent process. 

‘I am proud to become a custodian of this esteemed institution, but I also recognise the significant responsibility that comes with it. 

‘Today marks the start of an exciting new chapter in Sunderland AFC’s history and although the current landscape facing football dictates that there are challenges to overcome, I am confident that together we can weather the present storm and put solid foundations in place to bring sustainable and long-term success to the club.’

The Frenchman bought a controlling stake in the League One club with Stewart Donald, Juan Sartori and Charlie Methven each retaining a minority shareholding.

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus boards a helicopter and speaks to the pilot ahead of a 'day trip' to a theme park in Germany

Kyril Louis-Dreyfus boards a helicopter and speaks to the pilot ahead of a ‘day trip’ to a theme park in Germany

It is hard to keep up with his jet set life - with photos posted from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, New York, Ibiza (pictured), the south of France, Switzerland, Africa and London

It is hard to keep up with his jet set life – with photos posted from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, New York, Ibiza (pictured), the south of France, Switzerland, Africa and London

Louis-Dreyfus has watched Sunderland's last three matches as the takeover drew closer

Louis-Dreyfus has watched Sunderland’s last three matches as the takeover drew closer

Former owners Stewart Donald (right) and Charlie Methven (left) retain minority stakes

Former owners Stewart Donald (right) and Charlie Methven (left) retain minority stakes

Donald said: ‘I am delighted to welcome Kyril Louis-Dreyfus to the club as our new chairman and controlling shareholder. Kyril’s commitment, acumen and integrity convinced us to accept his proposal.

‘His vision and desire to bring success back to Sunderland was obvious from the outset and his bid is the one that we feel gives the club the best chance of long-term success and sustainability.

‘When we entered into negotiations with Ellis Short three years ago, Sunderland was nearly £200 million in debt, was losing £35 million per annum, and had all but been relegated to League One. 

‘Our plan was to work hard to turn around the finances of the club, put it on a stable footing and to get promoted back into the Championship. 

‘I am proud to say that we have achieved what we set out to in terms of SAFC’s finances – the club is debt-free, was breaking even prior to the pandemic and has retained its Category One Academy status. 

‘However, it is no secret that – despite spending the highest transfer fees and playing wages in League One history – progress on the pitch has not followed suit. 

‘That has been a bitter disappointment for us as owners, and we can only apologise for falling short in this regard.

‘Whilst we certainly made mistakes, everything was done with the best of intentions with the view to deliver this aim, but we just fell short and in football, unfortunately, a miss is as good as a mile. 

‘However, with the club just having booked its third Wembley final in three seasons and still being in the hunt for promotion, the foundations are set for better times. 

‘We hope and believe that the new management team, with Kyril at its head, can finally complete the turnaround and get the club climbing the divisions once again.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk