Forty years after he first started as general manager, Uli Hoeness is being celebrated by Bayern Munich for turning it into one of the world’s most successful clubs.
Hoeness began administrative duties on May 1, 1979, after his playing career was prematurely ended by chronic knee problems. As a forward for Bayern, he made 239 Bundesliga appearances from 1970-79, and bagged 86 goals.
When he took over as manager, Bayern had 12 employees, 12 million Deutschmarks (about $7 million) in revenue, and 8 million DM ($4.6 million) of debt.
Since then, the club has claimed 49 titles, including 20 Bundesligas, 11 German Cups, and 2 Champions Leagues, and built financial reserves rarely seen in debt-ridden European soccer. Turnover rose to a club-record 657.4 million euros last season.
“Uli Hoeness is a stroke of luck for Bayern. He was that as a player and is that as manager, president, and supervisory board chairman,” Bayern honorary president Franz Beckenbauer said. “What the club is today and the values for which it stands are down to him to a large extent, his specialist knowledge, his engagement, his competence. We can count ourselves lucky to have him.”
The only blot on Hoeness’ otherwise stellar career is the conviction he received in March 2014 for evading 28.5 million euros in taxes through a Swiss bank account. Hoeness quit as Bayern president and chairman after being sentenced to 42 months in prison but resumed duties in November 2016 after serving half of the term. He remained close to the club while in custody, benefiting from a work-release program to help in its youth department before returning to prison overnight.
As a player, Hoeness won the 1972 European Championship and the 1974 World Cup with West Germany and three straight European Cups – the predecessor of the Champions League – with Bayern.
“As manager, Uli was busy, smart, and inventive,” Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said. “He has been Bayern’s biggest fan for over 40 years.”
Rummenigge remembered becoming Hoeness’ roommate after he joined Bayern in 1974 following Paul Breitner’s transfer to Real Madrid.
“On the first day I crept into the training camp at Tegernsee. I didn’t know how to react so I just kept my mouth shut at first,” Rummenigge said. “After dinner, ‘The Commissioner’ was on TV and suddenly Uli spoke up: ‘Are you also going to say anything today?’ That’s Uli. Always straight and to the bone.”
While Hoeness, now 67, has long been unpopular among rival fans due to his abrasive style and blunt manner, he has faced criticism from within for the first time this season due to the club’s sponsorship deals with Qatar, his outbursts against the media, and personal tirades against former players and coaches.
Hoeness faced boos and whistles at the club’s AGM last November, and subsequently announced he would consider walking away from the club. He is to decide in June if he will run for another four-year term as president in November.