Anniversary, distinction and sweet anticipation: An interview with Prof. Dr. Hermann Bühlbecker prior to the CHIO Aachen 2023

When one talks to Prof. Dr. Hermann Bühlbecker about the CHIO Aachen, one senses his authentic passion for the event and for the equestrian sport. The sole proprietor of the “Aachen Printen & Chocolate Factory Henry Lambertz” has been a partner of the CHIO Aachen together with his traditional company for 25 years in the meantime. We talked to him about this anniversary, an unexpected distinction and the importance of the opening evening of the CHIO Aachen.

When you look back at the 90s, can you remember the early days of the partnership between Lambertz and the CHIO Aachen?

The CHIO Aachen was always a major sporting event and the comparison tennis and Wimbledon and riding and Aachen is certainly very fitting. And that is where the circle closes slightly, because many years ago I organised a tennis tournament together with Michael Mronz here in Aachen. When he moved over to the equestrian sport at the end of the 90s, the idea cropped up at some time or other that we at Lambertz should become involved in the biggest equestrian show in the world as a sponsor, since it is directly on our doorstep. This has since developed into a 25-year partnership. That is of course lovely and we appreciate this highly at Lambertz too. We are a family company and have always worked sustainably in many areas. This also applies for our sponsoring or events such as the Lambertz Monday Night or the Media Night, which has enabled us to raise the opening day up to a new level.


You mentioned Lambertz, but the CHIO Aachen is also well-known for upholding partnerships for many decades in some cases. How important is such continuity for you as an entrepreneur?

That is a good question. As a family business that dates back to 1688, we are geared up for durability. And also in the currently difficult economic situation, we always explain that we have already survived wars and experienced economically trying times and have still managed to keep the company on the market. I think it is something that guides us – continuity. If one constantly changes the partner for sponsoring activities, it is very difficult to convey a credible usage. And credibility is the decisive keyword here. The former Federal President, Richard von Weizsäcker, once wrote to me: “When I think of Aachen, I think of Charles the Great, Lambertz and the horses.” That is a fantastic combination, which one has to foster. These things are what make a city and they really are indispensable. And I believe the closer and longer one cooperates, the more one can do for all parties concerned, ultimately for the city, for the CHIO Aachen, for the horses, for the company, for the Printen (gingerbread cookies) from Aachen, for the city of Charles the Great.


You mentioned the importance, especially of Lambertz and of the CHIO for the City of Aachen. Let’s take a look at the Tuesday, the Opening Ceremony. The British royal family will be present and will be represented by her Majesty, The Princess Royal, Princess Anne. What significance does this day have for the imperial city? Especially in connection with the Media Night, which always attracts many celebrities to Aachen?

I find this was very frequently underestimated in the past in Aachen. This opening evening is eminently important, because it attracts huge media attention on the following day. When one sees how nicely one connects these things – the spectacular opening show and the Media Night with the fantastic catering and interesting guests. Everything we undertake helps to extend the reach. And if members of royalty and celebrities then come here it helps underline the standing of this show and communicate its significance worldwide. We don’t have to explain this to equestrian sport people! But the equestrian sport is not like football or how tennis was for a long time. Not everyone is familiar with the equestrian sport. And I find we have the task, and especially myself as a supervisory board member, to publicise the significance of the show. This opening evening helps us do this, particularly this year with Great Britain as the partner country. Having the Princess here as a representative of the royal family is a fantastic story. As a former, successful eventer, she is linked very closely to the sport herself and is thus a very credible person to open the CHIO Aachen. That really is something special.


What connections do you have personally with this year’s partner country Great Britain?

In 1993, on the request of Hans-Dietrich Genscher (former Foreign Secretary, editor’s note) I handed over printen dough and marzipan to the now King Charles at Windsor Castle. A few years later we saw each other again at the German Sustainability Award. Hence, we do have a certain connection with the royal family. And beyond this, I am very fond of Great Britain too. I am often in London and have been part of the Elton John Aids Foundation for just under 18 years. The Lambertz company also supplies products to Great Britain of course. As such, Great Britain was and still is one of my two or three desired choices as a CHIO partner country and this fits in well this year.


But the CHIO Aachen 2023 is also special for you for another reason this year. You will be receiving a distinction next week, namely the Prize of the City of Aachen, which is conferred to people every year, who have contributed special services to the CHIO Aachen. What does this award mean for you?

I have indeed in the past been presented with the odd prize or two. From the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, from the federal government or from Bill Clinton. But I must say I have never received a prize from the City of Aachen before (laughs) even though we feel that we have very close ties to Aachen or grew up here. After all the company is actually called “The Aachen Printen & Chocolate Factory Henry Lambertz GmbH & Co. KG” and the product that is associated with Aachen the most is the printe (gingerbread biscuit) from Aachen. It is of course lovely to receive this award – especially for my commitment for the CHIO Aachen. I think, when one has been on board for 25 years and has tried to help out here and there, one is pleased that this is recognised.


The team riders, who win the Lambertz Nations Cup at the CHIO Aachen will no doubt also be delighted. You are a great lover of sport and probably also know quite a bit about dressage after 25 years. Does it interest you much?

Dressage is indeed a sport similar to certain others, such as golf for instance, which one has to understand for it to impassion you. But I was actually interested in equestrian sports before becoming involved at the CHIO Aachen. As a young lad I used to collect the signatures of legends like Hans-Günter Winkler or Piero and Raimondo D’Inzeo. So, I always had that interest, I simply never practiced the sport myself. But I have always found it fabulous to have this event here in Aachen.


We have an incredibly strong field of participants in the dressage this year. Nine riders out of the top ten are competing – that is once again comparable with Wimbledon.

Over the course of the past years it has become really exciting again. I can still recall the years when one already knew in advance that the German team were going to be presented with the Nations Cup. It is thus simply great for the dressage sport that more riders have joined the top ranks. Of course, we still have fantastic riders and they are still among the favourites. But somebody else can always be the winner. And that is the nice thing about the sport, so I am looking forward to the tough competition in the dressage in the individual classification, but in the team competition of course too.


So which discipline you enjoy most is probably a difficult question?

I thought this question might crop up and I had hoped to avoid it (laughs). I don’t like comparing things that cannot easily be compared with each other. I do admit jumping is of course more spectacular. A direct comparison would however be unfair for an allegedly unspectacular discipline. We can count ourselves lucky that we have so many different disciplines in Aachen and that they all attract the well-deserved amount of attention, which is a compliment to the people from Aachen. For example, how many people from Aachen do we see out on the cross-country course on Saturday or when the crowd holds its breath in the Deutsche Bank Stadium and you can almost hear a pin drop – that really is fascinating. We should all appreciate this enthusiasm.

Prof. Dr. Hermann Bühlbecker, the sole owner of the "Aachener Printen- und Schokoladenfabrik Henry Lambertz". Photo: CHIO Aachen/Andreas Steindl

Prof. Dr. Hermann Bühlbecker, the sole owner of the "Aachener Printen- und Schokoladenfabrik Henry Lambertz". Photo: CHIO Aachen/Andreas Steindl