Herbert Hainer (l.) is Bayern Munich's new president, replacing close friend and club legend, Uli Hoeneß (r.). - © imago images/Sven Simon
Herbert Hainer (l.) is Bayern Munich's new president, replacing close friend and club legend, Uli Hoeneß (r.). - © imago images/Sven Simon

Herbert Hainer: Who is Uli Hoeneß's successor as Bayern Munich president?


An overwhelming majority of Bayern Munich members voted in favour of Herbert Hainer succeeding Uli Hoeneß as club president. Who is he? And how did he land one of the biggest jobs in football? bundesliga.com investigates…

Hainer was born roughly 80 miles northeast of Munich in the Bavarian district of Dornwang, less than 24 hours before West Germany lifted the 1954 FIFA World Cup. There must have been something in the air.

"I can't tell whether it's in my genes because of that day,” Hainer recalled in an interview with Bayern’s official club website. "But my family love football."

As a child, Hainer would go and watch 1860 Munich with his two brothers and uncle at the Grünwalder-Stadion the club shared with Bayern. At the time, 1860 were the superior Bavarian force and, as winners of the 1962/63 Oberliga Süd, chosen to represent Munich in the inaugural Bundesliga. They even won the title in 1965/66 - but change was afoot and Hainer had the pleasure of observing the shifting goalposts first-hand.

Hainer can’t have been older than 12 when he watched Bayern for the first time. A team built around local boys and soon-to-be German football legends Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller and Sepp Maier gained promotion to the Bundesliga at the end of 1964/65 and lifted the DFB Cup the following season. In 1968/69, they claimed their first of 28 Bundesliga titles. The 1965/66 Bundesliga remains 1860’s one major triumph.

"I do think to this day it was one of FC Bayern's greatest achievements to get going in the shadow of [1860]," Hainer said of Bayern’s belated emergence as a Bundesliga force before swiftly overtaking their city rivals. "[1860] were in a better position, they're one of the Bundesliga's founding members and won the championship title in 1966. I still became a Bayern fan, in no small part due to a defining experience in football: watching Franz Beckenbauer.

"Football was hard work, until the young Beckenbauer emerged. I always compare it to Cassius Clay in boxing. Heavyweight, that meant big, chubby men beating up one another. Then came slender Cassius Clay, and he was so much quicker with his feet. He boxed in a completely different way. And Beckenbauer was as impressive."

Franz Beckenbauer, himself a former Bayern president, turned Hainer onto the red half of Munich in the 1960s. - imago sportfotodienst

Beckenbauer was one of three future World Cup winners 1860 lost to their city rivals. The man later anointed 'Der Kaiser' in Bayern colours grew up supporting 1860 and was on the verge of joining the club when, playing in an U14s match against his prospective employers, took a slap across the face from an opposition player. The football world was never the same again.

Beckenbauer joined Bayern’s U19s in 1964 and went onto define a golden era in the club’s history comprising, among others, three Bundesliga titles and a hat-trick of European Cups. Rumour has it Paul Breitner and Hoeneß later plumped for Bayern over 1860 because of coach Udo Lattek. Forging a reputation as one of the most successful tacticians in German football history, he was only at Bayern on Beckenbauer’s recommendation. It’s a funny old game.

Hainer’s allegiance to Bayern remained unwavering, despite his younger brother playing professionally for Landshut and 1860. Walter made 62 appearances in Germany’s top two divisions, operating in the Beckenbauer sweeper role. Herbert himself kicked about in the lower Bavarian leagues with FC Dingolfing, albeit only as a means to "finance my studies". He graduated with a degree in business studies from the University of Applied Sciences in Landshut in 1979.

With a clear head of business on ambitious young shoulders, Herbert started out as divisional sales manager for the German arm of consumer goods corporation Procter & Gamble. After eight years with the American multinational, he joined Bavaria-based sports goods manufacturer, adidas - Bayern’s sponsor and kit provider since 1961.

The adidas Group "became one of the most sustainable corporations in Europe" under Hainer (pictured), according to company chairman Igor Landua. - imago

Hainer was appointed to the adidas executive board in 1997, before being promoted to CEO in 2001 and overseeing the company’s acquisition of an 8.33 per cent stake in FC Bayern München AG the following year. It made adidas the club’s first external shareholder, creating the financial basis for the construction of the Allianz Arena in 2005.

"Adidas and FC Bayern Munich are united by far more than just a partnership of many years as sponsor and supplier," Hainer said of the global brands’ long-standing affiliation. “Our partnership is a unique story of success."

Hainer had been deputy chairman of the of the Bayern supervisory board since the company’s incorporation in 2002 - juggling his roles at adidas, and as a director of Deutsche Lufthansa and Allianz SE - but first met Hoeneß in the 1990s. The two became and remain close friends to this day.

"Friendship means to be there for one another in difficult moments," Hainer said of Hoeness, highlighting the tragic loss of his daughter in 2006 as an example. "When our daughter died, he was the first to call and ask how he could help. It doesn't matter who laughs with you when you're in good shape. You have many friends then. What's decisive is who cries with you when you're badly off."

"You helped build this!" Hainer (l.) regularly joined Hoeneß (r.) in the Bayern box in his old supervisory role. - 2011 Getty Images

Hainer responded in kind, deputising in the role of Bayern chairman following Hoeneß’s enforced leave of absence between March 2014 and November 2016. He resigned from his position at adidas that year, but continued to work behind the scenes at Bayern following Hoeneß’s reelection as president. When Hoeneß confirmed he would not run for the role again, he only had one man in mind for the vacancy.

"I’m honoured Uli chose me to be his successor and recommended me to the club members," Hainer enthused after being named Bayern president on 15 November 2019. “When I was named adidas CEO in 2001, the company was worth €3 billion. There were tough times, like the 2008 recession, but when I left in 2016 it was worth €36 billion. That's another parallel between Uli Hoeneß and me: we're at our best when we're under pressure."

Hoeneß’s track record speaks for itself. An ex-Bayern player, their youngest ever general manager and former vice chairman, he is responsible for turning the Reds into a global powerhouse as president. Since he succeeded Beckenbauer in 2009, Bayern have won eight Bundesliga titles, five DFB Cups, the UEFA Champions League; paid off the €340million construction of the Allianz Arena 16 years ahead of schedule; and posted annual record turnovers.

Replicating Uli’s prosperous tenure represents a sizeable task that would make even the most seasoned team of Dragons tremble at the knees, but Hainer has some serious business acumen of his own. He ran a local pub as a student and later sold it for a profit, and is relishing the challenge of presiding over the next stage in Bayern’s continued development.

Watch: Uli Hoeneß, the man who made Bayern into a football giant

"I bow down to Uli for his life’s work," Hainer said. "What you’ve achieved for this club is simply extraordinary. I promise Bayern I will do everything to build on the success of the last 20 or 30 years, making best use of all my experience and passion for football. There are a lot of clubs who have enjoyed great sporting success, but don’t have a base for their fans and members; rather they’re a bunch of players who have been thrown together with no connection to the club and fans. We mustn't lose our identity."

As Germany’s most successful and the world’s best-supported football club, Bayern are in rude health across the board. Out of the shadow of 1860 and propelled into the global spotlight, the brand has never been stronger. Hainer has followed and played his part in the evolution – no wonder the 65-year-old was Hoeneß’s No.1 draft pick for the job.

Chris Mayer-Lodge