PARIS (AP) _ Jacques Goddet, founder of the sports newspaper ``L'Equipe'' and the Tour de France's director general for four decades, has died. He was 95.

Following Goddet's death Friday, France's leaders and sports writers voiced condolences.

Sports Minister Marie-George Buffet praised Goddet as ``one of the founding fathers'' of modern sports, who ``knew how to speak with emotion about the beauty of sports.''

Prime Minister Lionel Jospin issued a statement in which he recognized Goddet as having ``set an example for all sports journalists.''

Goddet studied at Oxford before starting his journalism career in 1924 when he joined the French sports newspaper, ``L'Auto,'' which was co-founded by his father, Victor. He became the newspaper's chief editor in 1928.

After the newspaper folded in 1944, Goddet founded L'Equipe, which became a widely respected voice in sports journalism and one of France's largest newspapers, with a current daily circulation of more than 400,000.

He was editor-in-chief of L'Equipe until 1984 and was honorary president for the newspaper until his death.

L'Equipe created the European Cup soccer championship in 1956 and the World Cup ski competition in 1967.

As a young reporter, Goddet covered the Tour de France for several years before taking over as interim director for cycling's most prestigious race in 1936. He was the Tour's director general from 1947-1987.

Goddet's death ``plunged us all into profound sadness,'' L'Equipe editor Jerome Bureau wrote in the newspaper's Saturday edition. ``For all of us at L'Equipe, he was much more than the former patron of this newspaper... Monsieur Goddet was our finest reference.''

``At 95 years old, like in the days of his first Tour (de France) or his first Olympic Games 70 years ago, he professed the same inexhaustible faith in our profession,'' Bureau wrote.