Bayern Munich boss scores own goal with back-tax settlement

German soccer club president Uli Hoeness confirms multimillion-euro payment over Swiss bank account

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, who owns a sausage factory in addition to his role as president of Bayern Munich, made a €3 million tax payment after failing to declare properly the interest income earned on funds held in a Zurich bank. Reuters/Michaela Rehle

Bayern Munich president Uli Hoeness, who owns a sausage factory in addition to his role as president of Bayern Munich, made a €3 million tax payment after failing to declare properly the interest income earned on funds held in a Zurich bank. Reuters/Michaela Rehle

Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 06:00

From butcher’s son to Bayern Munich mastermind, football manager Uli Hoeness was a modern-day hero in Germany.

But cracks have appeared in this self-styled monument to honesty and hard work after the footballer-turned-manager conceded making a multimillion-euro back-tax payment, reportedly to avoid prosecution.

The Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung said Mr Hoeness, who owns a sausage factory in addition to his role as president of Bayern Munich, had failed to declare properly the interest income earned on funds held in a Zurich bank.

The newspaper said the soccer manager had made a €3 million payment in January, leading to speculation he had about €20 million on deposit in Switzerland. Beyond confirming the payment, Mr Hoeness has declined to give any detail, saying he has to “do his homework with the authorities first”.

After early retirement at 27 due to injury in 1979, Mr Hoeness took over as Bayern Munich manager and, over three decades, transformed the club into a European powerhouse poised to win three top titles in the next five weeks.

The tax affair overshadowed yesterday’s Bayern Munich press conference ahead of this evening’s Champions League semifinal against Barcelona, with team officials banning any mention of Hoeness.


Condemnation
German politicians and media outlets lined up yesterday to condemn the manager. “Many people in Germany are disappointed from Uli Hoeness and the chancellor is among them,” said Dr Merkel’s spokesman.

According to news reports, Mr Hoeness had planned to use a new German-Swiss tax amnesty to settle his outstanding tax affairs with a one-off, anonymous payment.

German opposition parties who blocked the deal last year said the Hoeness case illustrated perfectly their concerns with the amnesty.

“Mr Hoeness and others were relying on the deal being signed so they could retain their anonymity and effectively legalise their behaviour retroactively,” said Peer Steinbrück of the opposition Social Democrats.

A regular on the German chat show circuit, particularly when talk turned to fiscal matters and moral authority, Mr Hoeness now finds himself confronted with his own condemnation of other tax-evading German millionaires.