I.In the summer of 2019, Lars Windhorst surprisingly joined Hertha BSC as a millionaire investor. Since then things have been going downhill for the Berlin Bundesliga club. The relationship between the well-known financial backer and the club management was considered complicated to tense. Windhorst does not want to be dissuaded from its long-term goals.
Question: Which football position best suits Lars Windhorst as a person: goalkeeper, head of defense, midfield strategist or goalscorer?
Windhorst: I would say I’m a combination of midfield and goalscorer, definitely an all-rounder with an attacking focus.
Question: How much do you annoy defeats like the 0-1 against Bayern? Does that feel like a personal defeat?
Windhorst: No, not exactly, but of course you are emotionally connected to the players and the club. I’m excited, and when it comes to football, that’s a new experience for me. I had that last time I watched the World Cup. Now I have it when Hertha BSC plays. The game against Bayern gives hope for more. I am very confident that we will see that in the next few weeks.
Question: How do you keep up to date with your workload? Can you watch all the games?
Windhorst: Of course it doesn’t always work that I can watch the games on TV or on the iPhone. But I try this as often as possible. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll look at a summary later.
Question: They coined the term “Big City Club”. Was that a mistake?
Windhorst: The fact is that the term “Big City Club” describes that Hertha is the football club in Germany’s largest city. Berlin is a global brand, a great stage and a great environment for a football club to develop positively and internationally. It is clear that the entry of an investor into a club like Hertha means a cultural change and a challenge that is not going smoothly. That doesn’t change the fact that I continue to believe that Berlin, as a large city and metropolis in Germany and Europe, justifies this synonym with Hertha BSC as the club.
Question: Critics say Lars Windhorst’s commitment to Hertha will soon be over. How long-term are you really planning?
Windhorst: It is very long-term. We can certainly imagine staying here for ten, 20, 30 years. There are also examples where other companies have long been involved in football, for example Juventus Turin with the Agnelli family. I would be happy if that is possible, that is definitely my wish. Nobody can predict the future, neither can I, but my aim is to make a long-term commitment.
Question: Hand on heart. How often have you regretted the investment?
Windhorst: Not at all, never. I didn’t start with the expectation that Hertha BSC would go on a huge IPO twelve months later, play the Champions League and that I would have doubled my money. Of course there were certain hurdles, certain things that didn’t go as I had hoped. In the worst case, we have now lost a few months, but that doesn’t mean that the long-term goals cannot be achieved.
Question: Supervisory Board Jens Lehmann asked for more gratitude for you in the association’s bodies. Is he right?
Windhorst: Hertha BSC as a traditional club has developed its own culture in its history. I came in completely new from the outside. It is clear that two different cultures and mentalities collide. This took some time to get used to in many areas. I have often been told by financial investors or even by people in my group: What kind of investment is that, no profit, no success and nothing to be determined? Such an investment is unusual or even exotic in the financial world. I was aware of that. But I saw the historic opportunity for this club to develop into something big in and with the city that I love. I see the jerks between the investor and the club management as a mutual probing. Sure you could have been further. But measured against the overall goal, the few hurdles are surmountable.
Question: Does that mean you have problems finding an investment in the financial sector?
Windhorst: Of course there is a need for explanation because – as I said – from the perspective of financial investors, this investment is unusual. But we absolutely stand by it. And we’re all just getting started.
Question: With Georg Kofler, your supervisory board quartet is complete. Carsten Schmidt is the new strong man in the management. Will there be further personnel changes in the Hertha committees after manager Michael Preetz leaves?
Windhorst: That is of course a matter for the club management. But I know from my own experience that there is always a need for optimization. One should not expect that the big breakthrough will come with just a few personnel decisions. This is now an important first step on a path that still means a lot of work for those responsible.
Question: Will your engagement end when Hertha BSC relegates to the 2nd division?
Windhorst: I firmly believe that we will not descend. That’s why I don’t even think about it. I firmly believe in the quality of the team and in the coach who manages to bring this quality together into a single unit. We will see that in the next few weeks. Hence the question does not arise.
Question: That sounds very optimistic for the current situation. Other clubs have already been relegated, although nobody wanted to believe in it.
Windhorst: Ask me if it should have happened. But it won’t, why should I deal with it today?
Question: Even Union Berlin has overtaken Hertha. Does that bother you?
Windhorst: This is impressive. It shows me how beautifully emotional football is. That should be seen positively, it doesn’t annoy me at all. It is an absolute win for Berlin and Germany that we have two big clubs here that play in the Bundesliga. I would be happy if it stays that way in the long term, so that we have intense competition.
Question: Is the 50 + 1 rule a major annoyance for you as an investor?
Windhorst: This is a highly emotional topic that is unfortunately currently bogged down in Germany. It’s not black or white. Sure, there are examples where investors have not behaved one hundred percent positively for the association, but have damaged it. But there are also many examples in which there have been positive developments from investors that have benefited the clubs. Take a look at Great Britain, where the fans’ perception of investors is very different and more positive than in Germany. I would like my involvement at Hertha, our cooperation, to have a positive influence on this discussion here in the long term.
Question: Fans continue to oppose an abolition of the rule.
Windhorst: As an investor at Hertha, I don’t want to alienate fans or turn against me. Basically, we all have the common goal of moving the club forward and having fun with football. And competition in football, which also includes financial resources, is nothing negative. Competition is fun.
Question: Many are afraid of the donor’s sole rule.
Windhorst: Seriously, the investor is not the dictator who dictates everything from above. It’s about taking people with you, motivating them to fight for a common cause. Even if we now had 100 percent or 50.1 percent voting rights, as a financial investor I cannot simply rule or determine permanently. I need the fans, the members, who are passionate about football and who support the club. As an outside investor, I can’t afford that.
Question: Critics say you only invest in Hertha for marketing reasons. Is that correct?
Windhorst: No, that doesn’t matter at all for our other business. We don’t have consumers as a target group, for whom a broad public would help.
Question: Are more investments than the previously agreed 374 million euros necessary for the goal of the Champions League?
Windhorst: You can’t predict that. Look at Frankfurt. They did not have any external funds and will probably still reach the Champions League or Union, they have had even less funds and they have been on a European Cup place in the last few weeks.
Question: Are new investments planned?
Windhorst: Nothing is planned. We will support Hertha BSC in the long term and will do everything we can to ensure that this project is a success. We definitely didn’t commit ourselves to suffer a loss halfway through.
Question: We’ll take you to the Hertha online fan shop and treat you to a Pal Dardai T-shirt, a Spree Athens scarf or a coffee cup with the coats of arms of all Berlin districts. What would you choose?
Windhorst: I take the coffee cup because I believe in Berlin in all its diversity, absolutely.
To person: Lars Windhorst, 44, became a young German entrepreneur when he was a teenager. He flew around the world with Chancellor Helmut Kohl. The soaring was followed by a crash up to personal bankruptcy. Today he is active in the international investment business with his Tennor Holding. He has been a sponsor at Hertha BSC since 2019.