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Uli Hoeness steps down as president of Bayern Munich: his farewell speech

At last, it is official. Uli Hoeness bade farewell to the gathered members of the club at Bayern Munich’s annual general assembly. Herbert Hainer was confirmed as his successor.

FC Bayern Muenchen Annual General Meeting
Say what you like about Uli Hoeness, but there is no denying he loves Bayern Munich.
Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images

Uli Hoeness’ farewell speech

In an emotional speech, Uli Hoeness concluded 49 years of service to his club, Bayern Munich as he stepped down as president of the club. (Full text courtesy of Bild.)

Hoeness thanked the team first of all for “opening the door to a fantastic annual assembly”:

Our team attacked, dominated, and in the end outclassed Dortmund I liked that very much. And what annoyed me very much was what I had to read afterward: “Dortmund was so weak.” I didn’t hear: “Bayern was strong!” Because if we always played like on last Saturday, there would be few teams in this world that could beat us.

From player to manager...

Hoeness first recalled meeting Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier when he joined Bayern in 1970, just after they had returned from the World Cup in Mexico, and wondering whether how he should greet them. But they made it easy for him then.

“It was a wonderful time,” Hoeness said of his playing days at Bayern, but they ended far too soon:

Unfortunately, when I was just 22 or 23 years old, I suffered a serious knee injury. An injury where our doctors and surgeons today would laugh. You could keep on playing. But for me it was the beginning of the end.

While struggling to recover from the injury, Hoeness was loaned to FC Nürnberg — “a small black fleck” on his time with Bayern, as he laughingly remarked. And then Bayern president Wilhelm Neudecker called to ask whether he could imagine becoming general manager:

I then played a few more games for FC Nürnberg. And then on May 1, 1979, I started. Only Mr. Neudecker wasn’t there. He had resigned in the meantime. But Leo Hoffmann became president and took me on anyway. And so Uli Hoeness the 27-year-old player, who had little experience, became Uli Hoeness the manager. No sooner said than done.

From debt to an era of sound business

Bayern at the time was 7 million Deutschmarks in debt with an annual turnover of just 12 million and twenty staff members. Hoeness pulled off his first grand transfer coup:

And our great good fortune was: we had Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Because I could sell him to Milan — for the then legendary sum of 11 million. It was a so-called three-way deal, where there were only winners. We were not in debt anymore. We had 4 million left over. I brought Lothar Matthäus from Gladbach for 2 million, Roland Wohlfahrt from MSV Duisburg for 1 million. And from this last million, since that time there has not been a single euro or mark of credit left by FC Bayern.

Hoeness described how the Bayern he joined had 6,800 members (today 293,000), and eighty percent of its revenue derived from matchday tickets. “And that was what I tried to change, I wanted to make FC Bayern’s balance independent of spectator income.” He succeeded, and with the arrival of Jürgen Klinsman — the player, not coach — “and the jerseys we sold at the time, the great era of merchandising began.” Bayern became wealthy.

Then came the Allianz Arena, which Hoeness regards as one of his crowning achievements:

It always was the dream to have our own stadium. We were able to realize this stadium. Initially, of course, we necessarily, compulsorily, pushed by the city, had to take on a partner who was quite consumptive [i.e. 1860]. And when they departed from us, then we really started to live like a pig in clover. Because I think that still today the Allianz Arena is in my view the most beautiful stadium in the world.

Hoeness took one last stand, moreover, for Bayern’s conservative transfer strategy. “We were attacked because we didn’t buy such expensive players,” he said. Hoeness singled out Alphonso Davies as epitomizing how he feels Bayern Munich should continue to operate:

I think it is very important to take a side consistently at some point. Either you get attractive players — they’re not cheap. Or you are humble and then you must have more patience. When I now see Alphonso Davies on the left side — Hasan brought a really gem to Munich for a song.

Bayern’s future leaders: Hainer, Kahn, Salihamidzic

Ultimately, it was Hoeness’ experience with the failure of other businesses to orchestrate their own succession that convinced him to plan for the future and hand over the reins of power at FC Bayern. Hoeness is convinced of the caliber of his successor Herbert Hainer and CEO-in-waiting, Oliver Kahn:

And the fact that we succeeded in winning a personality like Herbert Hainer, former chairman of Adidas for the position of president — that is a wonderful thing for this club. And the fact that Oliver Kahn is ready to succeed Karl-Heinz Rummenigge in two years is also something very special. But one must have patience. That won’t happen overnight.

Hoeness urged Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to integrate Kahn and future board director for sport Hasan Salihamidzic into a stronger team that can contend with its opponents outside.

Bayern Munich’s social responsibility

Hoeness found a striking metaphor for how he views FC Bayern as an institution, striking a centrist political note, as well:

When I dream of FC Bayern, then I think of it as a tanker that is sailing along the ocean. Ideally not shipping crude oil, with no containers as passengers, and no oil. No, it’s people: 293,000 members. And in the dinghies millions of fans. This tanker has to sail straight, not look to the left — and definitely not to the right [applause]. Then we all can be proud of this club.

Hoeness continued by emphasizing Bayern Munich’s social responsibility:

This club should always put people first. I have won 61 titles. AndI don’t know whether it’s always important to sacrifice a team, a coach, or a person for a title. Because when you’re as strong as we are, it will always come again. The club must be social. The club must be conscious, not arrogant. [applause] It also must think of the smaller ones.

We are strong. We were not always strong. But when you’re on top, you have to think of those who are below. And when I sometimes see, when I sometimes am sitting in the car, and then it comes on that Aue scores a goal in Sandhausen, I think to myself, do I need to know that now? Or a train in Colombia ran off the rails, do I need to know that? And what’s much more important for all of us: that there are many elderly people in this city of Munich who can’t live off of their pensions. That is important.

Moving forward, Hoeness pledged to dedicate far more of his time personally to benevolent causes. Hoeness then thanked the audience of members, his family, his colleagues and concluded, alluding to Giovanni Trapattoni’s legendary press conference:

It was a wonderful time. I say to you: that’s it. Ich habe fertig. Thank you!

Herbert Hainer elected new president of Bayern Munich

As anticipated, for Adidas chairman and longstanding board member Herbert Hainer was elected president of the Bayern Munich. Hainer addressed the audience, saying, “FC Bayern München is the best club in the world. It is a pleasure and a great honor to be standing before you here today.”

Hainer’s first course of action was to pay tribute to Hoeness: “I bow down to Uli for his life’s work. What you’ve achieved for this club is simply extraordinary,” he said. His first motion as president of the club was to appoint Hoeness its sixth honorary president. Wearing a Hoeness jersey, Hainer presented his predecessor with his certificate as honorary president. Hoeness said,

I’m incredibly glad to be this club’s honorary president, and I’ll do everything to live up to this honor.

He follows Franz John, Siegfried Herrmann, Kurt Landauer, Wilhelm Neudecker, and Franz Beckenbauer as honorary president.

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