Tue. Jan 25th, 2022

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© Reuters. German investor Lars Windhorst puts a portrait in Los Angeles, California, USA, July 11, 2021. REUTERS / David Swanson

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By John O’Donnell and Tom Sims

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Lars Windhorst, businessman at German football club Hertha Berlin, said he would pay more than 1 billion euros ($ 1.2 trillion) in a few months, selling assets to get out of debt and get their finances stably.

Windhorst told Reuters in a rare interview that his investments, which include Italian lingerie firm La Perla, a 236-foot-tall New York apartment block and a shipbuilder, were worth between $ 3,000 and $ 4 billion. of euros, exceeding their debts.

As a major investor in one of Germany’s largest football clubs, Windhorst’s financial situation is closely monitored, mainly because Hertha’s future depends on the support of one of the country’s top-profile businessmen.

Windhorst, who as a teenager left school to make computers and became one of Germany’s best-known businessmen when he was chosen by then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl to join business trips, has maintained a style from life to reaction despite a decline in his fortune.

It emerged from two insolvencies, the first during the dot.com internet bust and the second during the financial crisis, and hit headlines when it pulled away from a fatal plane crash in 2007.

While he said his previous funding was “risky,” Windhorst added that he was now in a hurry to return up to 1.4 billion euros, which he still has left after a restructuring in May.

“I took high risks. Sometimes things went wrong,” Windhorst told Reuters, adding that he had made “many mistakes,” but that he would soon show his criticism out of place.

“You just have to be successful and have sustainable success and prove that everyone is wrong. That’s why I get up every morning. It’s not about money.”

“I’m genuine. I’m honest. We’re here to stay,” added Windhorst, who earlier this year sold his stake in Fyber, a tech start-up, for $ 600 million.

During the week of the interview last month, Windhorst said he flew from Switzerland to Berlin to pick up his wife, before going to Los Angeles, New York, Washington and back to Los Angeles, where he spoke to Reuters via a video link.

In addition to restructuring his finances, the 44-year-old German is now facing an investigation by Berlin state prosecutors into his financial relations, although he said “this does not concern us”.

Regulators had opposed a € 270 million loan from one company in his group to another in the Netherlands, based in Tennor, Windhorst said, adding that this had not breached any rules.

“This is nothing strange and exotic. It does not violate any banking regulations. We firmly believe that this case will go away,” he said.

Berlin state prosecutors confirmed the criminal investigation, but rejected further comments. If prosecuted, the investigation could be re-filed in Windhorst Courts, which paid a fine for breach of trust in 2009.

Windhorst’s involvement with Hertha has coincided with a difficult chapter in the club’s history, which is far from achieving his vision of becoming a world brand.

Since Windhorst bought a stake in 2019, Hertha, who plays in the German Bundesliga, has struggled to avoid relegation and has seen the sudden departure of his German national coach and ex-coach Juergen Klinsmann.

“We want to make sure we get out of the danger zone in the new season,” Windhorst said.

“For my critics: I was successful, I didn’t. I paid. You were wrong. This will be the strongest change history of any German football club. We will have a major world record.”

FREE DEBT DEBT OBJECTIVE

Windhorst’s restructuring stems from when H2O Asset Management invested in debts of Windhorst-linked companies.

H2O customers were frightened in 2019 by concerns about Windhorst’s liquidity and asset governance, prompting some to withdraw cash.

In May, after months of fights, Windhorst announced a restructuring of about 2.5 billion euros of debt, reducing it to about 1.5 billion euros through repayments and amortizations, he said, repaying investors, mainly H2O.

H2O, majority-owned by French investment bank Natixis, said the deal would reduce exposure to Windhorst.

Natixis, who said last year that he would withdraw ownership of H20, declined to comment.

Now, Windhorst wants to eliminate the “vast majority” of the remaining debt by the end of this year and the rest by 2022.

“We expect more than a billion euros in cash inflows in the next two months with asset sales,” Windhorst said.

“We want to be debt-free by the middle of next year.”

“In the past, we had long-term private debt, which was a risky strategy. We had to be creative and look for more unconventional ways to finance our investments.”

($ 1 = $ 0.8412)



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