Dietmar Hopp – entrepreneur and co-founder of SAP, sports patron, biotech investor, provider of funds and great promoter of his native region – has turned 70. To celebrate the occasion, the German Federal President has awarded Hopp the Great Cross of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz), which was presented to him by the Baden-Württemberg Minister President Stefan Mappus.
Dietmar Hopp is well known all over Germany for his commitment to football. The rapid rise of his regional football club, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, from the district league to the German Premier League - straight to the top - is the stuff of football fairytales. TSG 1899 Hoffenheim's president, Peter Hofmann, describes Hopp's commitment in an article in the Rhein-Neckar newspaper (RNZ 24./25.04.10): "Dietmar Hopp was angry that a number of wrong decisions by a referee led to the club's relegation to the district league. This directly influenced his decision to help us."
Nowadays, the name Hoffenheim is well-known in the most far flung corners of Germany, although very few people could actually locate Hoffenheim on a map: Hoffenheim is a small village in the Kraichgau region, which merged with the town of Sinsheim, 30 km southeast of Heidelberg.
Hopp says that although his local football club being defeated hurt him a lot more than falling SAP shares, on which his fortune is founded, he is more committed to SAP than it might appear. However, it is not just the success and glamour associated with football that excites him. His close attachment to his native region (Hopp was born in Heidelberg; his family comes from Hoffenheim) and his sense of social responsibility are powerful motivating factors. He describes his motivation as follows: “Why do I do what I do? A safe environment, education, good health, success – I have all these. Therefore, I am in a position to help and I would like to be a role model for others. I believe that children really can benefit from sports where team spirit is what counts most, they learn determination and persistence. Sport brings people together. Our ball games academy and youth promotion centres provide opportunities for thousands of children and youngsters. This is what drives me. Sport connects people. Sport makes people smart” (quote from: RNZ 24th/25th April 2010).Hopp does not only support his local football club, but also a broad range of sport and youth projects in other regions of Germany. The Rhine-Neckar Stadium located near the A6 motorway (Sinsheim) and the impressive SAP Arena in Mannheim can be seen by car drivers from a long distance.
Dietmar Hopp celebrated his 70th birthday on 26th April. To mark the occasion, Baden-Württemberg's Minister President, Stefan Mappus, presented Dietmar Hopp the Great Cross of Merit, an order of the Federal Republic of Germany awarded by the German President Horst Köhler. Around 330 guests were invited to take part in the celebrations. Mappus referred to Dietmar Hopp as one of Baden-Württemberg's most outstanding business personalities, without whom SAP would not have been so hugely successful. "As the founder of what is probably the most successful post-war company in Germany, Dietmar Hopp has achieved outstanding success. In addition, Dietmar Hopp is a generous patron and supporter of start-up companies. He embodies the spirit of the "responsible entrepreneur" who is concerned about his home country, his employees and his fellow citizens," said the Minister President.
Together with four colleagues (Hans-Werner Hector, Hasso Plattner, Klaus Tschira and Claus Wellenreuther) from the IBM in Mannheim, Hopp founded the software company SAP as “Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung” (System Analysis and Program Development) in 1972. Hopp was initially managing director of the company before becoming chairman of the executive board when the company became an incorporated company and went public in 1988. In 1998, he joined the company’s supervisory board. Since 2005, the only official connection with SAP is his shares in the company, which have made him one of the wealthiest people in Germany with an estimated fortune of over 4 billion euros. Dietmar Hopp was decisive in SAP’s rise to global corporation status with a total of 47,600 employees – “the most successful German company of the last decades.”
The company's success enabled Hopp to establish one of the largest private foundations in Europe. The "Dietmar Hopp Foundation" (DHS) supports hospitals, nursing homes, kindergartens and schools. The foundation mainly supports regional projects, but also provides sponsorship for numerous Germany-wide projects in the fields of sport, medicine, science and culture. DHS money is mainly used for funding medical research and new developments. For example, the Department of Cardiac Surgery at the University Hospital in Heidelberg receives DHS funds to carry out a tissue engineering project on the cultivation of cardiac valves from patients' own cells. The Perinatal Centre at the Children's University Hospital in Heidelberg and an endowed chair on breast cancer diagnostics were both established with DHS funds. Of special importance is the foundation's financial support for the "Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine" (HI-STEM), which was established as part of the BioRN Top Cluster and which brings together applied research on cancer stem cells carried out at HI-STEM, the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) and the University of Heidelberg.
Dietmar Hopp is known as the German biotechnology industry’s largest private investor. During the global economic crisis in 2001, when venture capital was virtually non-existent in the biotech industry and many companies were either struggling for survival or became bankrupt, Hopp was virtually the only private individual to invest in this sector, providing well over 300 million euros. He currently invests in core companies in the BioRegion Rhein-Neckar Dreieck such as Cytonet, Heidelberg Pharma, febit, Apogenix and Sygnis Pharma, and is also a shareholder in Life Biosystems and Novaliq. Outside the Rhine-Neckar region, Hopp’s “dievini Hopp BioTech holding” invests in biotechnology companies such as CureVac and immatics (both based in Tübingen), Agennix (formerly GPC Biotech) in Munich and USA as well as the Italian company Cosmo Pharmaceuticals.