Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini has been famous for precisely 19 months. In all that time, have you ever heard him speak? Ever heard him give an interview? Us neither. Yet for someone who speaks so little, he seems to find himself quoted in the media an awful lot…
We first met Jean-Bernard (or JB, as we’ve become accustomed to calling him) back in the summer of 2014.
Right before his arrival, the gossip magazines and tabloids had all been running stories that Cheryl was dating bandmate Kimberley Walsh’s brother. Then, all of a sudden, this suave, exquisitely-bearded Frenchman turned up on her arm like a bolt out of le bleu.
A few short weeks later the two of them were married, away from the public gaze, in Mustique – completely wrong-footing the entire press.
18 months later, the Fernandez-Versinis separated.
In the time they were together, and in the months since they’ve parted, they have provided endless cover stories and copy for the gossip pages. Yet, throughout it all, JB has been like a ghost.
He’s never really spoken for himself. He’s never really been photographed anywhere except at Cheryl’s side. And (rather mysteriously in the age of smartphones and global paparazzi) he hasn’t been seen anywhere in months. If he didn’t occasionally pop up on social media, you’d maybe wonder if he had ever really existed.
When you look at the story of Cheryl and JB a little more closely, it quickly becomes clear that neither of them has publicly said a word about any of this. Everything we supposedly know about their relationship has come from a series of “sources”, “insiders” and “close friends”. And what exactly have they told us?
Let’s start with the day they met. That shouldn’t be a difficult story to get straight. Most couples find it pretty easy to explain how they met – unless it was somewhere embarrassing. Out dogging, say. Or at a U2 concert.
So what was the case with Cheryl and JB?
Initially the story the “sources” offered up was that JB was the world-renowned owner of a celebrity pop-up restaurant in Cannes called Cosy Box. He had swept the former Mrs Cole off her feet in May 2014 (which, helpfully, was the exact same point in time she was hitting the headlines for alleged tax-avoidance).
They enjoyed a much-mentioned “three-month whirlwind courtship” before they married – and that was that.
Or was it?
Shortly after they married, we did a bit of digging and noticed that JB had been appearing all over the Instagram of one of Cheryl’s good friends (a woman by the name of Janine Lazard) as far back as Christmas 2013.
Janine lives in South Africa, which is where those pictures of JB were taken. Well, guess who spent Christmas 2013 in South Africa with Janine Lazard. Only Cheryl bloody Cole!
Imagine that. Cheryl and JB, hanging out in the same part of the world, at the same time, with the same woman – and they somehow never met each other! Isn’t that weird?
Unless they did meet at Christmas 2013? But wouldn’t that make those stories about a “three-month whirlwind courtship” look completely made up? And what about all those stories about Cheryl dating Kimberley’s brother? Why were whispers “circulating among her friends that she is again growing close to best mate Kimberley Walsh’s brother Adam – 11 years after they were first spotted together”? (The Mirror, May 2014).
How had her friends got it all so wrong?
Miscommunication had obviously occurred, but the newspapers quietly and hastily amended their reports to hint at a six-month whirlwind courtship and pressed on.
July 2014: Cheryl’s big beaming smile was everywhere. On the front pages of the papers. In all the glossy weeklies. In the UK Top 10. She was back on top, and with a dishy new husband. A real step up from that dancing Mormon who gave her malaria.
JB looked pretty pleased with himself too – and he had good reason to. The “sources” quoted in all of the press reports following their wedding suggested that he’d never have to lift a finger at work again.
“Cheryl Cole has told her new husband that she doesn’t want him to continue working.” (The Mirror, July 2014)
But that statement sat rather at odds with a story the Mirror had run just the week before.
“Cheryl Cole’s boyfriend Jean-Bernard plans to join Simon Cowell in business after pair hit it off … ‘Simon recognises him as a shrewd businessman’ said an unnamed source supposedly close to Simon Cowell. ‘Jean-Bernard’s expertise is in events promotion and hospitality, while Simon is the king of entertainment so whatever they end up doing will merge those skills sets.’” (The Mirror, July 2014)
But perhaps even stranger was the implication that Simon and JB had been introduced to one another by Cheryl. You see, back around the time of the wedding, we also uncovered photos of JB that date back to the summer of 2012 in which he was snapped with Brazilian socialite Ana Paula Junqueira. He wasn’t dating Ana, you understand. He was just chaperoning her. Ana’s boyfriend at the time was none other than… Simon Cowell.
Again, it seems odd that JB would be hanging around with the same woman as Simon Cowell, at the same time and the two never cross paths. Ana must be kicking herself that she didn’t introduce them – especially as we now know they’d have hit it off so well!
It’s lucky that Cupid was around to intervene, because if it had been left to Janine and Ana, Cheryl and JB might never have ended up meeting at all…
Anyhow. They met. They married. And the papers got a juicy interview with one of Jean-Bernard’s closest pals: his Cosy Box business partner and best friend, Franck Twister.
“’I believe Cheryl has told him she doesn’t want him to carry on working,’ Franck says of his friend, who comes from a working-class family.”
“He’s too interested in having fun to want to work.”
“His family home is in the countryside, in Aix-en-Provence. His family are not super-rich but they have some money. I wouldn’t say they’re multi-millionaires like Cheryl. Nothing like that.”
“She has a very strong accent but he is completely fluent in English so they have no problem communicating… He has spent so much time in New York that he has a slight American accent.”
Remember these quotes, because they’re going to crop up again very soon.
Autumn 2015: A new series of X Factor begins and JB is no longer by Cheryl’s side. Trouble in paradise? That’s not even the half of it. There are so many problems with their marriage, the “sources” can’t seem to decide which is the most pressing.
One theory as to why they split came courtesy of Cheryl’s cousin Tony Tweedy in a Sun on Sunday interview. It was the language barrier wot done it apparently. “Cheryl can’t speak French. I’m told he speaks little English. What sort of relationship is it if she cannot speak French and he can’t speak English? They may as well have a threesome with the interpreter.”
Hang on. What happened to that fluent English with a slight American accent that Franck told us about? Funny that he’d be all chatty and fluent with his friends and yet become so dumbstruck in front our Our Cheryl. She’s beautiful, sure. But that beautiful?
Another theory from “pals” was that JB might have been some sort of international grifter.
And what evidence did these “pals” have for JB being a high-class swindler? One of them said:
“As far as I know, he hasn’t lifted a finger or done any work of any kind since he met his wife. His family home is in the countryside, in Aix en-Provence. His family are not super-rich but they have some money. I wouldn’t say they’re multi-millionaires like Cheryl.”
If you think that bears a startling resemblance to the quote JB’s friend, Franck, gave to the Mirror in 2014, you’d be right. Because it’s the exact same quote: initially given to the Mirror to confirm that JB was going to be a happily married man of leisure; now re-purposed by the tabloid to make him look like some sort of conniving master criminal.
So if The Mirror were at sixes and sevens, perhaps The Sun could shed light on it?
“Sources say the entrepreneur made an effort to ‘clean up’ his past after meeting gorgeous Cheryl… so his playboy past stayed hidden.”
Um, this is still the same JB who was previously described as a “self-confessed playboy”, isn’t it? No wonder both papers have had to remove these articles from their websites.
The Daily Star and Daily Mail had a slightly different take on the subject though. The reason their “sources” gave for Cheryl’s displeasure is “because he didn’t lift a finger during their 18-month marriage.”
You can see why JB might have been confused. He was, after all, the same husband that Cheryl was supposedly telling everyone she didn’t want working back in July 2014.
Weirdly though, on the same day that The Star was reporting this, The Sun was telling us that, actually, the split was completely amicable.
Or at least that’s what the unnamed sources close to the couple were saying: “They say the split is amicable and Jean-Bernard has told Cheryl he does not want a penny of her £20million fortune, despite there being no prenuptial agreement.” (The Sun, January 2016)
If that’s true, that would make him one of the worst conmen of all time. Certainly not the shrewd businessman that Simon Cowell apparently had him marked out as.
Speaking of Simon Cowell, what did he make of all of this? A “senior X Factor source” was quoted in the tabloids as saying, “Sadly, no one here is surprised to hear this news.”
Exactly the sort of expert foresight that had Cowell supposedly so eager to go into business with him 18 months before.
Break-ups are never simple. Divorce is a messy business at the best of times, but it becomes infinitely messier when your friends are all playing Chinese Whispers.
Initially, “sources” had claimed JB didn’t want a penny. But now her “friends” were telling the The Sun an entirely different story.
What reason could JB have for thinking Cheryl would hand over £3million?
“Cheryl is terrified that JB will try to cash in on their relationship. Lawyers have put forward divorce papers which include a requirement that Jean-Bernard does not talk publicly about their marriage.”
Ah, yes. The famously gobby JB. Who has never given an interview and who, according to the same paper’s source, can’t speak English. Maybe he could sell the story to that French magazine that published Kate Middleton’s tits?
In the last couple of weeks, the sources supposedly close to Cheryl and JB are still at it.
According to Mail, the pair have apparently been on a “make or break holiday” – though quite how Cheryl can be with JB in a tropical location, and also supporting her friend at London Fashion Week is not entirely clear.
Besides, Now’s unnamed “source” (who is supposedly close to Cheryl) says she’s fed up with JB: “To say she’s no longer in love with JB would be an understatement. She’s glad she never bothered to learn French now.”
Closer’s unnamed “insider” doesn’t seem to have got that same memo though and is still pushing the line that Cheryl is conflicted. (“Cheryl’s Marriage U-Turn: ‘I want the man I fell in love with back'”)
If she did want him back, it would be easy enough – according to Now‘s source. (Why do these people never introduce their friends to each other?). Apparently JB is “thought to have sent her olive oil” in an attempt to win her back – something a person would never do unless they were… Actually, no. That’s not something a person would ever do. They just wouldn’t.
And what about Ashley Cole – Cheryl’s first husband? Where does he figure in all of this?
Heat: “Cheryl’s sick of people still talking about her and Ashley”.
Now: “Cheryl and Ashley: Making Plans Together! … Now understands that the pair have been messaging each other a lot.”
What does any of this mean? Where does this leave the divorce?
But we guess some insiders will continue to say they do.