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Billionaire Hopp gets green light to take over Hoffenheim

Dietmar Hopp celebrates with the supporters after Hoffenheim's German Bundesliga soccer match against Bayern Munich in Sinsheim May 16, 2009. REUTERS/Thomas Bohlen (Reuters)

BERLIN (Reuters) - Billionaire Dietmar Hopp has been given the go ahead to take majority control of Hoffenheim next season after two decades of investment, the German Football League (DFL) said on Thursday. It added that despite strict ownership controls on Bundesliga clubs, Hopp, co-founder of the SAP software company, fulfilled one of the exceptions to the rule, known as '50+1'. "Crucial in the assessment of Hoffenheim's request was that for more than 20 years Dietmar Hopp has provided considerable financial support for both the professional as well as the amateur teams of the club," the DFL said in a statement. Under current rules, no individual or company can own a majority stake in a Bundesliga club unless they have been the major single investors for at least 20 years because the league wants to avoid attracting investors with short-term plans. The only privately-controlled clubs are Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg due to them originally being factory clubs. "According to the (DFL) board the conditions for an exception to the 50+1 rule are fulfilled," the DFL said referring to Hopp's takeover. "The '50+1' rule foresees majority votes remaining with the mother club. Any exceptions are decided by the league board following a request in cases where they have continuously and considerably supported the mother club over a span of 20 years." Hoffenheim, nicknamed the 'village club', due to the small local community, raced up the lower divisions with the help of Hopp and were promoted to the Bundesliga in 2008. They are currently seventh in the standings. (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann)