BERLIN ( Associated Press) – The German soccer league has decided to replace the first female CEO in its history with two men.
Axel Hellmann and Oliver Lecki will take over immediately from Donata Hopfen, who is on his way out of German football’s top two divisions after less than a year in charge.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s Hellmann and Freiburg’s Leckie will take over the reins on an interim basis until June 2023, Hans-Joachim Watzke, chairman of the league’s supervisory board, said on Thursday.
Watzke said the two new directors were involved with Hopffen in negotiations important to the league on the five-member commission and were close to matters involving the country’s antitrust regulator and potential investors.
“If you recruit someone from outside, they’re going to need a lot of time to become familiar with the process, time we don’t have,” Watzke said.
The league said Wednesday that a mutual agreement had been reached with Hopfen to shorten his contract by three years, due to “different views regarding the strategic direction” of the league.
Hopfen had trouble implementing his approach and resolving differences on issues such as the league’s 50+1 rule, which limits the role of foreign investors, domestic and foreign marketing, and the sale of television rights.
Never before had Hopfen worked on sports management issues. Before taking charge of the league, she was the managing director of a corporate investment firm
She worked for the Axel Springer media group and served as managing director of the Bild tabloid.
In a post on social media, he suggested that he had not received the necessary support from league members to make necessary changes to the aging structures.
Watzke said that he personally regretted Hopfen’s departure.
“Believe it or not, a separation, even if it is by mutual agreement, always leaves a mark. It is not good to talk about these things,” he said.
When asked why Hopfen was named a year earlier if there were so many differences between him and the league, Watzke said it was a “good question”, one he was not yet sure the answer to.
“We always try to work together in a spirit of trust,” he said. “But in the end, when you know something is going astray, and that’s the point we’ve reached, you have to break away.”