photos: Dominik Asbach, Asbach / Laif

instead of buying expensive players, it concentrated on creating

and retaining its own stars, and succeeded. The only

exception was midfield strategist Nuri Sahin, who transferred

to Real Madrid, and national player Mats Hummels

who extended his contract with Dortmund in spite of a

handsome offer from FC Bayern. „We‘ve got something really

special in Dortmund, and this may be the only time

in my career that I experience it,“ he said. „We all want to

hang on to it for as long as it lasts.“


“we chose the sustainable route.” THINK AcT

talks to borussia Dortmund chief executive Hans-

Joachim Watzke

mr. watzke,

is Borussia

Dortmund just

like any other



In terms of


and sales figures, definitely. They

need a well-defined management

structure with clear-cut hierarchies

and decision-making processes,

and so do we. That’s something

we’ve done here in Dortmund,

unlike many other bundesliga

teams. but the borussia Dortmund

brand has the global resonance of

a DAX company, which makes the

club much more valuable than the

figures suggest. Another factor,

of course, is that we have a huge

group of fans hanging on our every


what special skills does the cEo of

a football club need?

You need an entrepreneurial spirit,

you need talent, and most impor

tantly you need to understand

football. I understand the process-

es that go on with our team, and I

understand the inner structure of

the game, so I can assess the rec-

ommendations made by the coach

and the sports director.

when you took over in Dortmund,

the club was clinically dead.

When I took over this job, we were

living from day to day, every spare

euro went to the creditors, and

nobody wanted to lend us a single

euro – it just wasn’t a solid investment.

both financially and from a

sporting point of view, we were

facing a long, slow death.

and then there was the credit

contract with morgan Stanley.

That saved our lives; there are no

two ways about it. We had more

freedom to make our own business

decisions, albeit within a clearly

defined framework, and we were

able to start looking to the future

and developing a strategy to get the

club back on its feet.

how did you get along with them

after that?

At first there was skepticism on

both sides, but once we had a

proper financial framework and new

sponsorship contracts with good

companies, we regained the bank’s

trust. some people in the club had

concerns that, to put it bluntly, we

were being taken over by some

act: tuRn-aROund bVb

American asset stripper, but they

were quickly disabused of that

view. my colleagues and I were very

impressed by the longterm finan-

cial strategy, and the understanding

of the sports business, that morgan

stanley and roland berger strategy

consultants showed in putting

together the recovery plan. They

did a great job. We were all clear

that we needed to work together

to get the business back on its feet,

and there was a lot of mutual trust,

respect, and professionalism.

one cornerstone of the recovery

plan was winning matches. is that

something you can plan for?

No, you can’t plan for it, but you can

create the right framework. michael

Zorc, the club’s manager, and I developed

a philosophy in Dortmund,

which was that the team needed to

play vertically, put the other side

permanently under pressure and

just go for it. Then we selected the

players – it’s easier to do with young

players – and we found the ideal

coach in Jürgen Klopp.

Probably every club in the Bundesliga

would like to have an

integrated sporting and business

philosophy. why does this so rarely


The key people have to understand

and trust each other, and

there mustn’t be too many of

them. That’s not easy in football,

because there are always so many

personal vanities involved. If you

don’t have a clear management

structure, you never know where

you are or what you’re doing.

From a business viewpoint,

what did you learn from the successful

restructuring of Borussia


In this club, we only spend money

that we’ve earned. That’s our paradigm,

and that’s how it will stay.

We’ve chosen the sustainable route,

and even getting into the champions

League won’t change that.

THINK AcT sepTember 2011 57

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