Perhaps it was luck. Or a coincidence. Or destiny. For who knows what would have become of Bayern, if Karl Hopfner hadn't bought a copy of the Süddeutsche Zeitung on that fateful day in October 1982. If he had been stuck at home with the flu, for example. If he hadn't seen the crucial announcement which started everything.
Bayern's deputy chairman will be celebrating his 60th birthday this Tuesday. He has been working for Germany’s most successful club for 29 years, almost half his life, and has played a large part in making FC Bayern the club it is today: The national gold standard, and a top international club. Franz Beckenbauer says: “FC Bayern would not be what it is today without Karl Hopfner. Even with Uli Hoeneß. Even with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.”
As Uli Hoeneß points out: “Karl Hopfner is one of the people responsible for putting Bayern in the strong financial position it enjoys today. He is not given enough credit for his part in Bayern's successes of the past 20 to 30 years.” DFB president Wolfgang Niersbach honours Hopfner as “just as important for FC Bayern as the actual sportsmen, who are the focus of the public eye due to the nature of their job. He is the great strategist, the finance expert, the organiser and administrator working behind the scenes – a great professional for FC Bayern.”
Always a Bayern fan
Hopfner never played football professionally and had in fact never joined a club as a young man (Hopfner: “My parents wouldn't let me”), so his decision to align with FC Bayern in the first place was “sheer coincidence” (Hoeneß). It all started with an announcement in the local newspaper. In autumn 1982, FC Bayern München e.V. posted a job advertisement for the position of managing director. Hopfner, 30 years old at the time, and having “always been” a Bayern fan, immediately took up the offer. “It was just too tempting,” explains the former senior executive of a family-run building supllies firm. He had previously started an apprenticeship as an industrial sales representative, and completed a business studies degree after finishing school.
He sent in his application in October 1982 – and got no response from FC Bayern at first. Three months later, in January 1983, his phone rang. “That's when I remembered I had actually applied for the job,” he recalls. The call was followed up by a job interview with former FCB president Willi O. Hoffmann. Hopfner got the job, and gives us a wink as he comments: “I was among the top 20, and the best 19 called off, so I was left over. It must have been something like that.”
Explosion in turnover
Hoeneß remembers that FC Bayern received more than 400 applications when the advertisement was sent out. “Karl was one of the few who applied without any kind of lobbying,” explains the former FCB manager, who teamed up with Hopfner to put FC Bayern on financially stable ground. “Back then there were only two senior executives at Bayern: Uli Hoeneß, as the manager, and myself, as the managing director. We had twelve employees and a turnover of about €12 million,” reminisces Hopfner, thinking back to his first days at Bayern, which was hopelessly in debt at the time.
The figures presented at the November 2012 Annual General Meeting show just how much Bayern has developed since then. FC Bayern München AG reported a turnover of €328.5 million for the 2010/11 fiscal year – the second highest in company history, not quite breaking the record set the previous year (€350.2 million) – and the equity capital of FC Bayern München AG currently stands at €268.3 million. FC Bayern held fourth place in the latest worldwide annual ranking of clubs by income (Deloitte Football Money League).
Over the past three decades, Hopfner has supported FC Bayern's steady growth in a leading role, starting out as FC Bayern München e.V. managing director, then as managing director of commercial arm Sport-Werbe GmbH as of 1995, as a member of the FC Bayern München AG executive board from 2002, and as deputy chairman of the executive board since 2009. The development of a professional corporate structure – turning the non-profit members’ club into an incorporated company and corporate group – is one of Hopfner's crowning achievements.
“Everything has grown in scale,” says Hopfner. “25 years ago transfers were usually dealt with on the phone. Nowadays there's a lot of paperwork involved. That includes the licensing for the DFL and UEFA: it used to be two sheets of paper, now it's two full folders.” But Hopfner has everything under control: he is responsible for finances and accounting, ticket and membership services, internal affairs, legal concerns, staff, and the representation of FC Bayern München AG investments. In addition, Hopfner is chairman of the board of the FC Bayern Hilfe e.V. charity foundation, a member of the UEFA committee for club tournaments, and serves on the DFB and DFL boards of directors.
Revenue-oriented spending policy
“We always found the players. The contracts, drafting the documents – that was Karl Hopfner's part,” says Hoeneß, with a nod of appreciation to his long-term colleague. “Arguing with him is always a huge struggle,” says Bastian Schweinsteiger on the subject of contract negotiations with Hopfner. “Nobody can do the math like he can!” To Beckenbauer, Hopfner is simply a “financial genius.” Rummenigge says: “Whenever he gives the thumbs up, I know everything's going well at Bayern.”
Hopfner, in close cooperation with Hoeneß, set up FC Bayern's proudly proclaimed and rigidly adhered-to revenue-oriented spending policy. “We only spend what we've already earned,” he explains. Of course every investment carries its own risks, especially transfers (“After all, we're dealing with people”). But: “You can't be taking suicidal risks. You have to keep your commercial responsibilities in mind,” Hopfner insists.
'We created this together'
FC Bayern has never been in the red since he took up his position, and has never needed a loan for transfers. But this was only possible due to the team's success on the pitch, muses Hopfner (“Sporting success means financial success”), putting his own achievements into perspective and generously crediting his fellow architects such as Uli Hoeneß or Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “We created this together, along with the team and every employee of the club.”
Hopfner considers it “normal” that he has nothing like the public persona of former world-class players Rummenigge, Hoeneß or Beckenbauer. Publicity “isn't really his thing anyway,” says Niersbach. To Hopfner the greatest reward is winning the competition. “When you finally win the championship, win the title, then you feel you haven't failed completely,” says the passionate golfer and red wine connoisseur. “Very loyal and harmonious,” is how Rummenigge describes his relationship with his colleague on the executive board. “He's the type of person who puts the needs of others before his own. And a very sympathetic person when he's off-duty, too,” says Beckenbauer.
Only luck, coincidence, or fate decided that the paths of the Kaiser, Rummenigge, and FC Bayern would cross with the path of street footballer Hopfner (“This is how it used to be: Get out of school, on to the Mariahilfplatz and start playing”). Hoeneß says: “We’re delighted this coincidence turned out a very happy one indeed.”