The 41-year-old is regarded as a fit and energetic man with an optimistic outlook. He took over the Love Parade four years ago under the company name Lopavent GmbH when financial woes threatened to end the event for good.
But something far worse – the death of 19 people and injury of more than 500 in a stampede at the event on Saturday – ended the Love Parade instead.
Visibly emotional, Schaller said the next day that there would be no more Love Parades “out of respect for the victims and their families.”
Until the stampede happened, he had managed to revive the ailing event, drawing hundreds of thousands – and sometimes more than a million – people each time. The idea to bring the Love Parade to the Ruhr region was celebrated as a clever coup.
The entrepreneur comes from Schlüsselfeld, a small town of 6,000 in the Upper Franconia region of Bavaria. His parents ran a grocery store there, but the trained retail salesman had bigger goals.
In 1997 he opened his first McFit fitness studio in Würzburg, turning it into the largest – and most affordable – chain of gyms in the country. With 120 locations, the company brought in some €135 million in 2009.
He has frequently denied using the Love Parade as an advertising platform for McFit, but the company’s blue and yellow logo was highly visible at the techno party events.
Schaller is not a techno music fan and only went to one Love Parade before buying the event, saying it was just a big party with a good mood attached.
Love Parade founder Matthias Roeingh, also known as DJ Dr Motte, had a disagreement with Schaller in 2006, saying he didn’t like the music programme and accusing the businessman of using the festival for advertising purposes alone – a claim he renewed following the deadly stampede.
“Mr. Schaller can just pack up and move away,” Roeingh told Berlin station Radioeins on Monday. “He’s no longer wanted in Germany.”