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October 4, 2015

The Winterkorn’s Tale

A guest contribution by Rainer Kalb on the links between Volkswagen and the Bundesliga.

Martin Winterkorn.

What’s in a name? Saint Martin, who had marched a long way from Hungary via Italy to France, still did less kilometers in his life than an average Volkswagen Diesel. When he died in November 397 A.D., his body was not carried by a diesel transporter either, but in a bark on the river Loire to Tours, where he was buried.

Saint Martin is most famous for having cut his cloak in two in order to share it with a beggar. Question: will Martin Winterkorn, who earned 16 million Euro per year, share anything with anybody? He was supposed to sign a new two-year contract as Volkwagen chairman, bringing in an even richer harvest. But then winter broke out in Wolfsburg, and his golden indian summer was over. Still he insists on generous payments after having had to resign over the emissions cheating scandal.

What does this mean for VfL Wolfsburg? Despite the optimism of director Klaus Allofs who believes that his football business will continue as usual under the new Volkswagen boss named Müller – albeit unfortunately not Gerd or Thomas – nothing will be the same as before.

In what world does Allofs think he lives? When a huge industrial company has to pay fines of billions of Euros, when eleven million cars must be recalled and fixed, when sales are likely to collapse and massive compensations to be paid, when suppliers will be suffering and people will lose their jobs, VfL Wolfsburg, the costly toy of Volkswagen, will have to give away more than half a cloak in order to preserve a reason for being. Even in the Champions League half of the fans turn their back on them. Aspiring young professionals in Niedersachsen may be well advise to head for good old poor Braunschweig in second division rather than Wolfsburg.

The VfL will become an excellent point in case for the 50+1 rule, staunchly defended by the DFB and the League, which guarantees the majority of voting rights to club members rather than investors. Wolfsburg will illustrate just how quickly a corporate-owned club can be drawn into  downward spiral.

But the Wolfsburg earthquake will even be felt in Munich. Not only because Audi, Volkswagen’s accomplice in cheating, holds almost ten per cent of FC Bayern, but because Martin Winterkorn holds a comfy chair in the record champion’s supervisory board. Can anybody let me know how a guy who presumably knew nothing about what happened at Volkswagen, may be in a position to ‘supervise’ what’s going on at Bayern?

Karl Hopfner, the honorable Bayern president, observed that Martin Winterkorn sits on the board as a private person and not as a representative of VW and/or Audi. But that’s fairly thin ice he’s walking on. Bayern may be able to support Rummenigge the luxury watch smuggler and Hoeness the tax dodger, but should it support someone who is at least morally responsible for eleven million frauds? As a trustworthy private person?I beg to differ.

Rainer Kalb’s previous contribution can be found here.

Post by Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Governance - No Comment

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