Ralph Krueger has revealed it was Katharina Liebherr’s vision for Saints that persuaded him to join the club.
The 54-year-old former ice hockey coach officially began life as the new chairman at St Mary’s this week, although he has been involved ever since Nicola Cortese’s departure in January.
Krueger, a renowned leadership expert, came to know the Liebherr family, and Saints owner Katharina, through his speaking career.
He explained it was Liebherr who persuaded him to join Saints, turning his back on five offers to return to the NHL, where he had previously coached the Edmonton Oilers.
“My relationship with Katharina Liebherr is the foundation of everything here,” said Krueger, who was a special adviser to Canada’s gold-medal-winning team at last month’s Winter Olympics.
“I had a fresh slate after the Olympic Games and had been pondering different avenues to go down when the question, or the possibility, of this situation arised.
“I parked everything else immediately. “I had been looking at a lot of options, also within my original sport, because this is now my sport, football, and nothing really was available anymore that I felt I could grow as a leader and be challenged.
“I challenged all those years as a manager of teams. I challenged my players every day to get better and to try go somewhere they’ve never been and try to have something difficult on their plate in the morning when they get up to continue that growth.
“This, really, when it came up was that challenge. I don’t expect this to be easy, but what I felt in Katharina was her values.”
Krueger added: “There was nothing that interested me, or excited me, like this.”
The Canadian-born German, who used to be a professional ice hockey player, began a speaking career when he moved into coaching, passing on his philosophies on leadership and teamwork.
It was through that work that he came to know the Liebherr businesses and the family.
“There is just such a deeply-rooted value set in that organisation in the way they’re very humble, extremely humble, in the way they operate,” he said.
“When I saw this evolving and then the call came in January to come and take a look, I was open because of Katharina. “I am here because of her, number one.”
While Krueger is Liebherr’s key appointment, the daughter of Saints’ late owner, Markus, will remain on the parent company’s board, also alongside interim chief executive Gareth Rogers and lawyer Hans Hofstetter, and will continue to have a close involvement at the club.
“Katharina will be actively involved,” said Krueger. “She has really enjoyed getting involved.
“Her father’s spirit is with her every time she walks in the stadium.
“Yes, she has a family, yes, she has other things going on, but this has become a very important priority for her.”
Krueger added: “From day one, it has been very natural, easy and refreshing. She is in the conversations. She cares.
“She has really good insight and very creative in her ideas and I look forward to implementing those for her. It was natural.
“The sports side was important to her, that I understood major league sports, because if you don’t get it in major league sports, that would be a huge blocking point.”