Soccer team in a huddle

SAP Co-Founder Dietmar Hopp Celebrates his 75th Birthday

April 27, 2015 by Marcus Winkler

Taking a trip down memory lane: A look back at all Dietmar Hopp’s achievements.

More than 40 years ago, Dietmar Hopp co-founded the only multinational corporation to have been established in Germany since World War II. Today, a host of charitable projects ‒ including youth sports, medical, educational, and social programs ‒ feel the benefits of his extraordinary social commitment, particularly in the area he comes from, the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region. Thanks to his backing, his home soccer side, TSG Hoffenheim, now plays in the German Bundesliga. With all these milestones and many more to look reflect on, Dietmar Hopp celebrated his 75th birthday on April 26.

Few can reflect on a life’s work quite like Dietmar Hopp’s. Back in 1972, he and four former IBM colleagues co-founded Systemanalyse und Programmentwicklung, or as it is now known, SAP. Under their leadership, the Walldorf-based company soared into the top flight of the world’s IT industry.

Born in Heidelberg and married with two sons, Dietmar studied communications engineering at the University of Karlsruhe (now the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology) between 1960 and 1965, embarking on a career as a systems analyst at IBM in Mannheim shortly after graduation.

Dietmar served as CEO of SAP AG from 1988 to 1998. His areas of responsibility encompassed development and sales, press and public relations, national and international consulting, and administration. During his tenure as CEO, SAP went public and rose to become the global market leader in enterprise application software. Between 1998 and his retirement in May 2005, Dietmar was a member of SAP’s Supervisory Board, serving as its chairperson from 1998 until 2003.

There has been no shortage of praise for his life’s achievements in the press. Handelsblatt, a German-language business newspaper, named Dietmar “the best of the best” in its analysis of the most successful CEOs of DAX companies since 1988. What, then, is the recipe for his success? In an interview with Handelsblatt, Dietmar put it down to “hard work” and “having the right idea at the right time.”

Giving something back

Since retiring from SAP, Dietmar has been investing in the biotech industry.

His vision is to give something back to society. To date, the Dietmar Hopp Foundation, established in 1995, has donated more than €410 million to charitable causes, primarily youth, sports, medical, educational, and social programs.

SAP and sport are two cornerstones in Dietmar’s life. “He ran SAP like he was managing a sports team,” said Hasso Plattner on his partner’s leadership style. Dietmar, an avid sportsman himself, was a talented soccer and tennis player in his younger years. Later, having discovered a passion for golf, he went on to found the St. Leon-Rot Golf Club in 1997 and is still its president today.

Dietmar also supports TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, and as a boy he even played for their youth team. Since first receiving financial support from Dietmar in 1990, the club has risen up through the footballing ranks, climbing from local-league level up to the first division of the prestigious German Bundesliga.

Dietmar Hopp holds both the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande) and the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Verdienstorden 1. Klasse). Among the many other distinctions he has received, he is also an honorary citizen of two of SAP’s key locations: Walldorf and St. Leon-Rot.

Top image: Shutterstock

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