In 1977, Killy terminated his exclusive contract with McCormack and started a ski-wear manufacturing company, Veleda S.A., in Paris. It became one of Europe's biggest, grossing $35 million in 1987, but two warm winters in a row have cut its revenues sharply. He also owns three thriving ski shops in Val-d'Is�re with his father and brother.
Killy has lived for 20 years in the low-tax environs of Geneva, and some millionaire-watchers estimate that his fortune is in a class with that of Bjorn Borg, another McCormack client. Killy himself admits to $20 million. McCormack says, "Jean-Claude is frugal. He's a great learner and he has learned to handle his money well. He's very wise."
Despite his rugged good looks, Killy was wise enough to realize that he was not cut out to be a movie star. He made only one feature film, a 1972 stinker called Snow Job. TIME headlined its review UPHILL RACER and savaged Killy's performance: "Waxing romantic or working out plans for an elaborate robbery, Jean-Claude always manages to sound as if he were making a half-hearted pitch for Chap Stick."
His costar was a beautiful blonde actress, Dani�le Gaubert, who could scarcely ski but who was well known to movie reviewers and Parisian gossip columnists. She had appeared in 17 films, many of them, like Camille 2000 and Les Regates de San Francisco
, well received. She had been married to Rhadames Trujillo, the super-rich, evil-tempered son of the Dominican dictator. Published rumor, denied by Gaubert, had it that Trujillo kept her a virtual prisoner on his farm in rural France, forbidding her to see people or to make films. They were divorced in 1968, and not long afterward Gaubert and Killy met and became inseparable. They married secretly in the Haute Savoie village of Archamps on Nov. 2, 1973, amid unfounded rumors that they had delayed the nuptials because Killy's contract with McCormack required him to remain a bachelor until Jan. 1, 1974.
Gaubert and Killy had a daughter, Emilie, now 19, and Killy adopted Gaubert's two children from her marriage to Trujillo, Maria-Dani�le, 24, and Rhadames, 23. Killy is fiercely protective of his private life, but his years with Dani�le before she died of cancer in 1987 were plainly full of love and joy. "She was the love of my life, the girl of my life for 20 years," he says. "I was going to retire with my wife and live forever, well organized and with enough money, forever. That did not happen, but it is not all bad. Everything has changed without her, but not only in negative ways. Some things are positive, some things I understand better. We are not here for long. There are five, six billions on the earth, and none of us are here for long. My excitement, my commitment, now comes from the occupation of the moment. Only the moment."
It was a long time ago, in November 1981, to be exact, that Killy first heard of the great Olympic project that would occupy so many of his moments over the next decade. Word came from a Savoie politician named Michel Barnier, a Gaul list whiz kid who had been elected to the national parliament at the tender age of 27. Barnier had grown up in Grenoble and had been a 17-year-old face in the crowd at the finish line when Killy performed his Olympic heroics there. The two met in 1972, when Barnier, at age 22, was about to become the youngest man ever elected to the Savoyard parliament.
Barnier is still a member of the National Assembly as well as copresident with Killy of COJO. He was instrumental in the genesis of the Albertville bid. "I had been representing the Savoie for several years, and I was well aware that it was the worst-managed region in all of France," says Barnier. "No planning had been done for 30 years. There had been 250,000 hotel beds added to the region in that time without a thought given to the necessity for building better roads and railroads to get people into those beds. I came to the conclusion that the biggest problem in the Savoie was to catch up on this delay in new roads, and that was the number one reason for beginning our Olympic bid."
Conceived in a bed of cold political pragmatism, the bid needed to be swaddled in some credible idealism to give it warmth. Barnier appealed to Killy, and together the two of them sold the concept to the fractious Savoyards as a crusade that would both galvanize and unite them. "We realized the Olympics were not an ordinary, banal undertaking," says Barnier. "Jean-Claude and I saw them as something magic that could bring fame to the Savoie."
Barnier committed part of his staff, funds and office to the Olympic campaign. Together he and Killy raised $100,000, and in December 1981 held their first press conference to announce that Albertville, a town with no ski area and no special winter tourist attractions, would bid for the '92 Games. Why Albertville? It was a crafty Savoyard solution. The IOC insists that each Olympics be hosted by an individual city instead of by a region or nation. Barnier, the politician, and Killy, the Samaranchian diplomat, chose drab, workaday Albertville as the front city because it is not a winter resort and thus wouldn't be perceived as competition by the other villages and resorts in the valley.
Killy, Barnier and a handful of early supporters next turned into global traveling salesmen for Albertville. "We decided that one of our group would visit every member of the IOC in his home at least once and at some international meeting at least once," says Killy. "There were 91 IOC members in 46 countries. I saw 50 people at home in 35 countries myself. We were so inexperienced and shy at first, we thought lobbying' meant hanging around hotel lobbies and leaping out from behind the potted palms to talk to people. We knew nobody, then we got to know them by their first names, then we got to know their whole families by their first names."