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Jacques Martin, 74, French TV personality

Jacques Martin was host of a series of hit comedy shows. Jacques Martin was host of a series of hit comedy shows. (GEORGES BENDRIHEM/AFP/Getty Images/file 1998)

PARIS - Jacques Martin - the French television personality once married to Cécilia Sarkozy, the wife of the French president - died yesterday. He was 74.

Mr. Martin died of cancer in the southwestern city of Biarritz, where he had been in declining health for several months, according to former colleagues.

Mr. Martin shot to fame as the host of a series of hit comedy shows on French television, including the satirical "Le Petit Rapporteur," a spoof newscast that ran from 1975 to 1976. He also founded his own production company, Jacques Martin Productions. A stroke ended his long career in 1998, forcing him to abruptly leave his last show, "Sous vos applaudissements" (With Your Applause).

Mr. Martin fathered eight children with four women. His third wife, Cecilia Ciganer-Albeniz, went on to marry Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative politician was elected president in May.

In 1984, Nicolas Sarkozy, then mayor of the Paris suburb of Neuilly, officiated at the wedding of Mr. Martin and Ciganer-Albeniz. The couple had two daughters, Judith and Jeanne-Marie, before divorcing. The Sarkozys married in 1996.

Culture Minister Christine Albanel called Mr. Martin a "free spirit, an impertinent spirit, very funny, full of talent."

Born in Lyon on June 22, 1933, Mr. Martin was the grandson of Joannes Ducerf, the French chef who served Russian tsar Nicolas II, and he gave full rein to his passion for food later in life.

Mr. Martin leaves his eight children. Details on funeral arrangements were not immediately known.

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