Hoffenheim, the German village on a hillside near the university town of Heidelberg, has 3,300 residents, a soccer team and a chance to take the Bundesliga title from 21-time champion Bayern Munich.
The team's rise from obscurity was funded by billionaire Dietmar Hopp, 68, who played for Hoffenheim before building a fledgling company into what's now SAP AG, the world's biggest maker of business-management software.
Hopp didn't buy the team. Rather, he's a member of the 109- year-old sports and gymnastics club that owns and operates it. He's spent what Der Tagesspiegel reported was more than 100 million euros ($149 million) on it as it advanced three levels to Germany's top league. Hopp says he plans to recoup his investment through a 30,000-seat stadium he's building outside of town.
"I was never interested in buying a stake somewhere in search of success," Hopp told reporters at his nearby golf club last month. "I am not the sponsor of Hoffenheim. I am the investor in Hoffenheim."
Hopp won't say how much he's spent on Hoffenheim, which will play its first Bundesliga home game tomorrow against Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Hopp began backing Hoffenheim's youth soccer program and other regional clubs through the Dietmar-Hopp Foundation, created in 1995 with 28 million of his SAP shares as seed money. The shares today are worth about 1.05 billion euros.