What do a former gourmet shop owner from Long Island and a former bar owner from Dingolfing, a small town in southern Germany, have in common? Today, they are the bosses of two of Germany’s largest corporations.
Bill McDermott, the American boss of software giant SAP, already had his own food business while at school aged 17. And the outgoing head of sports retailer Adidas, Herbert Hainer, ran a bar called the Gussofen (Cast Iron Oven) with a fellow student while studying business administration at college.
“The Gussofen was a huge success,” said Mr. Hainer, looking back. “The two of us took turns working there evenings and didn’t even pay ourselves a salary in the beginning. After a year, we completely paid off the loan we had taken out and resold the bar at a profit.”
As founders of business enterprises, Mr. Hainer and Mr. McDermott are considered exotic in the corporate world. Mr. McDermott will likely be the last boss of a DAX exchange-listed company who has an entrepreneurial background after Mr. Hainer leaves Adidas in October. In the United States, not a single head of a company represented in the Dow Jones Index has ever started or managed a company they owned.