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Bayern Munich sues BMW for €10-20m over failed sponsorship deal

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It seemed certain that BMW would succeed Audi as Bayern’s major automotive sponsor — until it suddenly didn’t. Now Bayern is seeking damages.

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The BMW headquarters and the Allianz Arena in the background in Munich, Bavaria, Germany.
So close, and yet farther apart than ever. The BMW headquarters and the Allianz Arena in the background in Munich.
Photo by Morten Falch Sortland/Getty Images

According to a report in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Bayern Munich is seeking damages from BMW upward of €10-20 million over an alleged “breach of trust” (Vertrauensbruch) committed by the automobile company in connection with the negotiations over a massive sponsorship contract that collapsed abruptly in May of this year.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Uli Hoeness broke off talks with BMW’s representatives on May 8, when, according to Bayern, BMW suddenly made an “unfulfillable” demand. The nature of the demand is not known, but FAZ’s Michael Ashelm speculates that BMW may have requested that Bayern negotiate with Audi to terminate their sponsorship contract early, rather than succeed Audi in 2025 when it would expire.

Such a request would have been very difficult for Bayern to grant, given that Volkswagen president Herbert Diess sits on the club’s supervisory board, having replaced former Audi CEO Rupert Stadtler in December 2018.

Background

Audi purchased 8.33% of Bayern’s shares in 2014 and pays another €30 million per year as the club’s official automobile sponsor. Bayern’s contract with Audi runs until 2025, but Bayern and BMW had been in talks over a major sponsorship deal since at least August 2018. BMW seemed intent on replacing Audi with a better deal already by September 2018.

BMW’s bid became clearer in March 2019: they were was supposedly prepared to commit to paying €800 million over ten yearsFAZ now says potentially €1 billion. But by May, Bayern signed a new deal, not with BMW, but with Audi: the Ingolstadt car-maker would pay €1 billion for twelve years — a base of €60 million with extras totally about €83 million per year. Nothing more was ever heard of BMW’s interest.