The Hockey News - Money & Power
SAN JOSE SHARKS
AS THE MAJORITY owner of the San Jose Sharks, high-tech billionaire Hasso Plattner tries to avoid the spotlight that the wealthy often court. “His approach is, ‘I’d rather people pay attention to the hockey team than me,’” said Jonathan Becher, who became co-president of the Sharks in a front-office restructuring in December 2017.
But, Becher said, that desired lack of visibility does not mean Plattner isn’t paying attention to his team both on and off the ice. “He’s involved in the strategy of both,” Becher said. “He trusts the rest of us to run most of the stuff day-to-day, but he knows the players on the (AHL) Barracuda, he scouts guys on his own, he knows what’s going on as far as gate receipts. Don’t underestimate how much he knows.”
In fact, it’s probably smart not to underestimate anything about the 74-year-old. The German-born Plattner has deep pockets with an estimated net worth of $12.7 billion. That and his declared commitment to winning enable a grateful Sharks GM Doug Wilson to maintain a consistently strong roster with a payroll that routinely bumps up against the salary cap.
Plattner made his fortune as the founder and former CEO of the business software giant SAP, where he continues to serve as chairman of its supervisory board. After stepping down as CEO in 2003, he established two affiliated venture-capital firms that bear his name, one based in Germany and the other in South Africa.
Plattner lives his private life on a global scale, too. His primary home is in Potsdam, Germany, where he resides in a villa that served as Winston Churchill’s house during the 1945 conference that determined Germany’s fate after World War II. In Northern California, he built a home overlooking the fairways of the CordeValle golf resort that he owns 30 miles south of the Sharks arena that bears his company’s name. He has another place in Colorado’s ski country.
Plattner’s sports interests extend to sailing. A serious race competitor, he has a home in Bermuda, where his yacht is based. Sailing also provided the opportunity to extend his legendary business rivalry with Oracle founder Larry Ellison.
As a philanthropist, Plattner has followed the lead of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, committing at least half of his net worth to charities and causes, either during his lifetime or after his death. To that end, a foundation created by Plattner to foster technology and entrepreneurship has financed two academic institutes, one at the University of Potsdam and the other at Stanford University.
Beyond that, much of his charitable work has gone toward the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, where Plattner maintains yet another home and owns the Fancourt Golf Estate, site of three Gary Player-designed courses.
With everything going on in his life, it’s understandable that Plattner isn’t a fixture at Sharks games. Becher, who was on SAP’s executive team before assuming his current role as team co-president with John Tortora, said the owner does try to attend about half of the club’s games.
Plattner has only met with San Jose sportswriters a handful of times. In each session, however, he came across as confident, clever and comfortable with his wealth.
Plattner did step a little out of the shadows last summer. First, he showed up in Los Angeles, taking an active role in the unsuccessful courtship of free-agent John Tavares. Two months later, Plattner was part of Wilson’s successful effort to acquire Erik Karlsson, talking by phone multiple times with the defenseman and his wife, Melinda. Plattner made a good first impression. “He’s obviously a very successful businessman,” said Karlsson. “Just talking to him, you can tell that he’s a smart man and that he knows what he’s doing.”
Veteran Sharks describe Plattner, an occasional visitor in the dressing room, as the kind of owner any team would hope to have. “As players we understand he wants a winner and he provides the opportunities for us,” said captain Joe Pavelski. “He’s never really shied away from anything.” – DAVID POLLAK