Philipp Lahm - led Germany to World Cup glory. Can he do the same with a former family business? (photo: Wikimedia)

WealthSpike: Could international footballers breathe new life into family businesses?


Philipp Lahm, the captain of the German football team that won the World Cup in 2014, thinks his skills as one of the world’s best footballers can help turn an ailing former family business around. He might be on to something, and could other big named footballers follow his example?

Lahm has recently become the majority owner of Schneekoppe, a maker of natural food products, that traces its history back to 1927 and for much of existence was a family business. The former German international has been involved in the business for a number of years, but became a majority owner in Schneekoppe last January when he bought out the other main shareholder.

Lahm, who played for Germany’s top football side Bayern Munich for most of his career and was known as the “Magic Dwarf” given his dynamic football skills and being just 5ft 7in high, will have his work cut out for him at Schneekoppe. Based south of Hamburg, Schneekoppe has struggled in recent years, coming close to bankruptcy.

Lahm won’t be short of opinions from business luminaries about how to turn the business around. He’s a well-known football celebrity is not just Germany, but Europe – and there are many who’d like to work with him.

But maybe he should look a bit closer to home for advice and have a chat with fellow international footballer Gianluigi “Gigi” Buffon. The legendary Juventus and Italian goalkeeper bought a majority stake in a struggling former family business called the Zucchi Group in 2015.

Based in Italy, the Zucchi Group traces its history way back to 1830 and was owned by various families for much of that time. Buffon’s majority stake has since been whittled down to 15% after some restructuring. It’s not clear whether Buffon lost money from the deal, but he could no doubt tell Lahm a thing or two about buying a business with a family business legacy – and the potential pitfalls that entail.

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