Bayern Munich have said that Uli Hoeness' deputy, Karl Hopfner, is set to take over as president of the football club. Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced "respect" for Hoeness accepting his tax evasion jail sentence.
Bayern Munich supervisory board member Helmut Markwort told Bavarian public television on Friday evening that Karl Hopfner (pictured, right) was in line to replace Uli Hoeness as club president. Markwort said the Bayern board would hold an unscheduled meeting on May 2 to vote on the appointment.
Hopfner joined Bayern in 1983 and is currently deputy president and a member of the supervisory board.
Adidas executive Herbert Hainer has assumed Hoeness' other major role at Bayern, supervisory board chairman, at least on a temporary basis. The board voted Hainer in unanimously earlier on Friday, after Hoeness' resignation.
Hoeness had said on Friday morning that he would not appeal a three-and-a-half-year jail term for tax evasion. The 62-year-old also announced he was quitting all of his posts at Bayern Munich with immediate effect, saying he wanted to limit the damage to the club.
Runaway Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich also issued a statement on the club website on Saturday morning, thanking Hoeness for his "exceptional services" to Bayern over the years.
"FC Bayern Munich will support Uli Hoeness and his family wherever possible in this most difficult period of his life. Uli Hoeness will always remain a key part of FC Bayern Munich," the short statement, with signatories including Hopfner and Edmund Stoiber from the administrative board, concluded.
Hoeness spent more than four decades with Bayern as a star player, then as commercial management mastermind and finally as club chairman and president. His departure leaves a huge hole on Säbener Strasse - as the Munich-based Süddeutsche Zeitung put it in a headline: "FC Bayern is losing its belly."
Hoeness ultimately admitted during his four-day trial to evading taxes worth around 28.5 million euros ($39.63 million) via a Swiss bank account.
'Respect' from Merkel, Gabriel targets Bern
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday lauded Hoeness' decision to face the consequences of what he had called "the mistake of my life," rather than appealing the verdict. His defense team had initially announced an appeal when the verdict fell on Thursday.
"The fact that Uli Hoeness has now accepted this verdict as it is, elicits great respect from me," Merkel said in Munich, the state capital of Germany's conservative heartland Bavaria.
Hoeness' high-profile case, along with others in recent weeks including prominent feminist Alice Schwarzer and Christian Democrat party treasurer Helmut Linssen, has helped thrust tax evasion back onto the political agenda in Berlin.
Merkel's economy minister and deputy chancellor, Social Democrat chairman Sigmar Gabriel, told Saturday's edition of the Passauer Neue Presse that Hoeness was one of many. Gabriel said it was becoming common practice to use Swiss accounts to hide major earnings from stock market speculation.
"Therefore we need to force the Swiss banks to open everything up," Gabriel said, before adding an even better solution would be if "some of the bank bosses, who offer this kind of support towards evading millions in taxes, would equally be put on trial."
Merkel's last coalition government agreed a bilateral deal with Switzerland to allow tax offenders to come clean with anonymity; Gabriel's Social Democrats - then in opposition - were able to topple the bill in the upper house of German parliament, arguing that it was too lenient.
Hoeness had said he was hoping to take advantage of this Swiss arrangement until it collapsed. The Bayern president first alerted the authorities himself by submitting amended tax returns, but the court ruled that his voluntary submission was incomplete and therefore did not shield him from prison.
msh/crh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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