German soccer player Philipp Lahm, the captain of the Bayern Munich soccer club, is known for thinking a few moves ahead.
He was a mainstay of the Germany squad that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and is essential to Bayern Munich’s bid to win this year’s Champions League, the most prestigious trophy in European soccer.
Mr. Lahm, who earns an estimated €14 million, or $15.7 million, per year, is proving as far-sighted in business as he is on the pitch. When his contract with Germany’s richest club expires in two years, Mr. Lahm, now 32, plans to hang up his boots for good. He’s been steadily acquiring stakes in companies.
His most recent investment is a 40-percent stake in Danova, a health services company founded in 2011. It’s not his first deal. Mr. Lahm is setting up a whole portfolio of investments. In early 2015, he acquired a stake in Sixtus, a maker of foot and bodycare products. Then he bought into Fanmiles, a Berlin start-up that sells a loyalty bonus system to fans of sports stars and movie celebrities.
“I don’t want to spend my life on the couch after my career is over.”
“I don’t want to spend my life on the couch after my career is over,” Mr. Lahm told Handelsblatt. Managing his own team, a career path often chosen by retired players, isn’t an option for him either. “I can’t imagine becoming a coach,” he added. “I’ve been on the pitch day in, day out for the last 25 years. I need a bit of change.”
So Mr. Lahm has become an investor. He said he closely examines the companies he buys into. “I have to back what they’re doing totally,” he said. It’s no surprise that his latest acquisition, like the others, is broadly linked to the world of sport.
Danova advises companies on how their employees can stay as fit as possible. The start-up, which is based in the Bavarian city of Nürnberg, has a staff of 12 and runs a network of coaches, psychologists, nutrition and sports experts. It provides advice on disease prevention, gives employees check-ups and measures if the projects it provides advice on are yielding benefits. Danova said its revenue is below €10 million. Its clients include well-known names like sports equipment company Adidas, Deutsche Telekom and the Federal Labor Agency.
Danova has a promising business model, according to Mr. Lahm. “Employers are under pressure to do something,” he said, noting that Danova as an expert on disease prevention offers firms valuable support. “An employee who feels well is more motivated and can perform better. That of course ends up helping the company.”
Mr. Lahm and Danova declined to reveal how much he paid for the stake. But the soccer start stressed he invests actual money — and is not just being handed shares in return for being a brand ambassador.
Last year, Mr. Lahm and other investors tried to take over Munich sports clothing brand Bogner. But the owner, Willy Bogner, called off the auction, possibly because the bids were too low for his liking. The Bayern midfielder was disappointed. “It would have been a great fit for me,” he said.
Mr. Lahm has seen the world with Bayern Munich and the national team but feels closely tied to his roots in Bavaria and Munich, where he was born. So it’s unlikely he will invest in a Silicon Valley start-up. He said he would be more likely to help the firms he’s invested in expand abroad.
He’s not the only soccer players to invest in corporate stakes. Former professionals Fredi Bobic, Oliver Neuville and Marko Rehmer bought into Berlin start-up Staramba, which produces 3D miniature figures of soccer stars like Mr. Lahm.
But not all soccer stars are that far-sighted when it comes to money. Max Kruse, a midfielder who plays for VfL Wolfsburg, another top German club, reportedly left €75,000 in a taxi last year. Such escapades are unlikely to happen with Mr. Lahm, who is married with a young son and advertises for health insurer AOK. “I’ve experienced myself how important health is,” he said. “It’s important to take care of oneself.”
Mr. Lahm, who retired from the national soccer team after the 2014 World Cup, is known for his single-mindedness. No one knows that better than Germany’s national soccer coach Jogi Löw, who was asked last week whether the star might change his mind and return to be captain of Germany once more.
Mr. Löw all but ruled out a comeback. “I know how Philipp thinks and how rigorously he follows through on decisions,” he said.
That evidently also applies to his decision to prepare for his life after soccer.
Joachim Hofer covers the sport sector for Handelsblatt. To contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org