Having transformed Bayern Munich into one of Europe’s strongest clubs, then been jailed for tax evasion, Uli Hoeness will bring the curtain down on a glorious 40-year reign at the German giants when he steps down as club president on Friday.
Hoeness will officially stand down at Friday’s annual general meeting having nominated Herbert Hainer, a former CEO of sportswear firm Adidas, to succeed him, but he will stay on the club’s supervisory board for at least four more years.
Since the 67-year-old joined club management after retiring as a three-time European Cup-winning player four decades ago, Bayern has dominated the Bundesliga and been crowned kings of Europe two more times.
“I think that someone like Uli Hoeness will never stop, he’s got a Bayern heart, so he will always stay connected to us,” said Bayern captain Manuel Neuer on Wednesday.
He hands the reins to Hainer with Bayern Munich in rude health, generating 750 million euros ($825 million) in turnover and reported profits of 52 million euros.
The club has a vast army of 300,000 members and over 1,000 employees, while their Allianz Arena stadium has been paid off.
It is a far cry from his first day as a club manager on May 1, 1979, following a career-ending knee injury, with Bayern carrying debts of seven million Deutschmarks (around 3.5 million euros in today’s currency).
After two hours at his desk, Hoeness says he “went home, because there was no work”, but his relentless drive and recruitment of top players in the coming years has yielded 24 German leagues and 14 German Cup titles.
“Bayern is unimaginable without you,” wrote in a tribute Germany legend Franz Beckenbauer, who Hoeness replaced as club president in 2009.
“The club would not be what it is today.”
However, the fire still burns in Hoeness’ belly, as proven last Sunday morning when he rang a talk show on German television to berate pundits criticising Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.
Bayern is seeking a new coach since Niko Kovac was relieved of his duties a fortnight ago and Hoeness will no doubt have a say in who replaces interim coach Hansi Flick.
Ajax coach Erik ten Hag, Paris Saint-Germain boss Thomas Tuchel — both of whom have said they will not leave their respective clubs this season — and ex-Bayern coach Pep Guardiola are reportedly on the shortlist.
Hoeness, the son of a butcher, rose to fame for transforming Bayern into a global brand as a millionaire businessman who bounced back despite a spectacular own goal which landed him in jail in 2014.
The black mark on his legacy is the 21 months he served in prison following his 2014 conviction for evading at least 28.5 million euros ($31.5 million) in taxes.
It spoke volumes for his fearsome reputation that few in the German media questioned whether it was morally right for someone convicted of tax evasion to again run Germany’s biggest club.
Sure enough, Hoeness was re-elected Bayern president by members in November 2016, true to his parting words two years before when he insisted “it’s not over”.
Never one to take a step backwards and quick to start quarrels with anyone who criticises Bayern, Hoeness “wanted to bring Bayern to the top, at any price”, he says, and apart from “my tax history” he says he has “not made many serious mistakes”.
As for his future, Hoeness says he will only think “about that on Saturday, when I wake up” at his luxury home on the shore of Lake Tegernsee in rural Bavaria, but will never be too far away from his beloved Bayern Munich.
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