Uli Hoeness’s fall from grace has been amongst the dominating topics in the German media in 2014. The former Bayern president has been sentenced to a three and a half year jail sentence after it had become clear that he had evaded taxes for several million Euros after having stored several million Euros on a trading account in Switzerland. What makes this case so special, though, is the fact that the patriarch of Bayern München in the past made a number of public statements boasting about his honesty when paying taxes and urging German politicians to change the tax laws to avoid rich people leaving the country with their more or less hard earned money.
Uli Hoeness in the German talk show Jauch about the taxation of the rich.
German politicians, the press and the public at large couldn’t get enough of the trial. Whilst tweets from the courtroom updated the readers by the minute, Bayern’s fans feared for the worst. Dieter Hoeness went as far as stating that the coverage reminded him of a public execution. Bild, Germany’s biggest tabloid, had been reporting favourably about the Bayern president, but the paper did a 180 and asked the judge to send Hoeness to jail on their front page on the day of the sentencing.
One of Hoeness’s bête noir starts talking
Whilst some of the reports in the media certainly crossed a line (like for instance this front page of the Berliner Kurier), to satisfy some section of the public’s delight in seeing this public figure being disgraced, there was certainly a lack of Hoeness’s sworn enemies talking to the press. For example, former Werder manager Willy Lemke refused to comment, whilst Christoph Daum wished Hoeness and his family all the luck and strength in the world to get through this. However, this Monday one of the persons who has dealt with Hoeness in an official function for 21 years gave an interview to Spiegel to talk about his relationship with Uli Hoeness.
Christian Ude, the former mayor of Munich, came out in the interview characterising Hoeness as somebody who couldn’t lose a battle with decency and keep his calms about it. The mayor of 21 years went as far as saying that he couldn’t understand why people thought of Hoeness as a person of morality. Furthermore, Ude stated that Hoeness isn’t the philanthropist he has been made out to be:
Hoeness has always shown a lot of solidarity and he has always been helpful to his supporters. But, he’s always been a patriarch and he demanded that everybody should thank him for getting involved in those social causes and that they should be subservient. Those who weren’t he would consider to be enemies.
There is a long history between these two men. Hoeness has always supported the conservative party in Germany, whilst the Social Democrat Ude, on top of being on the opposite end politically-speaking, is also a TSV 1860 München fan. Uli Hoeness slammed the mayor in the press when he failed to turn up to Bayern’s championship celebration back in 2008, whilst the Bayern fans have made a point of booing Ude every time he has turned up at their celebrations. Furthermore, Hoeness has called Ude incompetent on many occasions, despite the mayor being elected by almost 2/3 of the voters in the city during his final election. Nevertheless, Hoeness was given the golden ring to the city of Munich back in 2010 by Ude, due to his merits. The mayor gave a speech, highlighting the positive aspects of Hoeness’s personality.
In the interview with Spiegel, Ude characterised Hoeness as a man who splits the world into two camps: those who are with him and those who are against him. All Hoeness wants is to further Bayern’s cause, winning as many titles as possible along the way, always thinking about the bottom line, according to Ude. Back in 2001, the citizens of Munich were asked to vote about what they should do with their football stadium ahead of the upcoming World Cup. Ude, having the interests of the city of Munich in his mind, put a clause into the vote stating that the city of Munich wouldn’t help Bayern financially if the citizens decided to build a new stadium. This clause didn’t sit well with Hoeness according to Ude:
Yes, of course, but because of that sentence our hands couldn’t be forced after the public’s vote. It stated very clearly: The tax payer isn’t footing the bill. Bayern could have had as many championship celebrations on the city hall’s balcony in front of 30,000 people and in front of the cameras of the Bavarian state television, and they could have railed: This city hall shouldn’t be adorned by us, it should pay! However, through that vote taken by the public it was impossible to secure public funding for the new stadium. We know FC Bayern! They would have come after the public had voted and said: It’s been decided that there’s going to be a new stadium – and then they would have asked for 50 million, than 80 million and in the end for 120 million Euros. The fact of the matter is that Hoeness, the man who forces every decision into his favour and who doesn’t shy away from using all means available to him, was turned down simply due a sub-clause put there by the council. He has never forgiven me for that.
The former mayor Ude emphasizes that he hasn’t had any trouble when facing Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Karl Hopfner or Franz Beckenbauer. The times he has clashed with Bayern München were because of Hoeness. The former Bayern president has tried to yield his political influence in favour of Bayern over the years, always having the monetary interest of Bayern München at heart according to Ude. What happened in 2001 was just the beginning:
Years later Hoeness demanded that the city should purchase car park, which was running at a loss, near the stadium, for 70 million Euros. Another time he demanded that TSV 1860, one of the parties which was in financial debt to Bayern, should be helped by funds from a public bank, in order to assure that they could pay back their debts to Bayern. This is the main reason for the hostility I have been feeling for the last 15 years. The source of it is the pure greed for money of a football club, personified by a manager who couldn’t get enough. Hoeness has been one of the toughest collectors of tax payer money all those years. Not for the state, but from the state. For FC Bayern München.
Hoeness slamming the media before going off to the slammer
The former mayor has been criticised by Horst Seehofer, the conservative head of state of Bavaria, for his statements in Spiegel. The head of state called the former mayor’s characterisation of Hoeness “grossly wrong on several counts”, however, this longtime friend of Hoeness failed to mention where Ude specifically went wrong in that interview. Hoeness himself had his last big outing in the press when he gave a farewell speech to the members of FC Bayern München.
In this speech, the 62-year-old promised the members that he would return after he had done his jail time, which had come as a result of the biggest mistake of his life. Hoeness himself clearly stated that the media’s coverage stood in stark contrast to the support he had felt over the last few months. However, the last few months hadn’t gone by without inspiring one significant change according to Hoeness:
I have discovered something within myself which has never been there: Hatred. Hatred isn’t good. Hatred is a chaperon, and I hope that I have it within in myself to remove this word from within in my head. I’ll do my outmost to achieve that.
The former Bayern boss used the big stage once again to launch an attack on the media, telling the club members:
I haven’t seen anything like the things many people did to my family and myself without even knowing us. Most of them were the journalists who reported about this. There are five books about me in the making, but I haven’t spoken to any of these people. It’s not about informing the public, no, it’s about making money. This is simply sacrilegious.
Ude was surprised to see Hoeness going on the offence during his speech, stating that he could have chosen to show discernment or a pensive side. However, the speech given by Hoeness might just have been a statement of intent to convey that he’ll continue to fight for Bayern in the same manner he always has after his return from jail. Christian Ude is probably relieved that it won’t be him who has to fight those battles against Hoeness when that time comes.
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