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By ESPN Staff

Polish-born businessman buys Nantes

NANTES, France, July 28 (Reuters) - Polish-born businessman Waldemar Kita has bought former French champions Nantes from owner Serge Dassault, just days before they are about to start life as a Ligue 2 club for the first time in over four decades.

A source close to the deal told Reuters on Saturday that Kita had agreed to pay around 10 million euros to take over the eight-times French champions, who were relegated at the end of last season after spending a record 44 consecutive years in the top flight.

Nantes will entertain Reims in their first match of the 2007-08 Ligue 2 season on Monday.

Kita, a trained optician who made a fortune by creating a France-based contact lenses business which he has since sold, had failed in a bid to take over Nantes in 1998. He was the owner of Swiss side Lausanne from 1998 to 2001.

'He's passionate about this club and wants to see it succeed,' Claude Robin, who was Kita's associate at Lausanne, said.

For years Nantes were nurtured by a series of unpretentious father figures, but the club changed dramatically in 2004 when Dassault, the owner of an aviation and industrial company, took control.

For many Nantes lovers, the businessman and the leadership he put into place broke the club's rich traditions, which the fans believe led to the club's decline.

Dassault said in June the club was for sale.