The German inherited the club from her father, Markus Liebherr, who died in 2010. But is she tied to the area by anything more than the cranes in the harbour bearing her family name?
Southampton fans desperately scouring the internet for information on Katharina Liebherr, the little-known figure who is now owner and chair of their club after the sudden departure of Nicola Cortese, will be hoping that the story of a small printing company in Bern does not prove prophetic.
Her billionaire father, Markus Liebherr, who rescued the ailing Saints from administration and League One when he paid £14m for the club in 2009, had a wide portfolio of business interests through his company Mali Holdings.
A few months after buying Southampton he bailed out a struggling printing company in Bern, saving 50 jobs and those of 72 apprentices and becoming known as the "Wifag saviour".
After his death at the age of 62 in August 2010 and the subsequent inheritance of Mali Holdings by Katharina, she decided to make 31 employees redundant and has since been accused of failing to set a new direction for the company.
The Swiss newspaper Der Bund said that while Mali initially said that Katharina would continue her father's work, "it has become increasingly clear in recent months that Mali can't sort out the successorship".
One employee at Wifag was quoted saying: "With the death of the patron, the chicken has lost its head. For a while it continued wandering around without a sense of direction, then it bled to death."
From the beginning, Cortese was more than your average club chief executive. It was he who convinced the German billionaire Liebherr of the potential of a once proud south coast football club that had fallen on hard times.
In turn, it was the Italian banker who was entrusted with running the club and given the final say on everything. "Since our early conversations about the deal I made it clear that I would only buy the club if he remained involved following the purchase," said Liebherr, who had an emotional link with Southampton given the presence of cranes bearing the name of his father's company in the harbour.
The subsequent success of Cortese's bold decisions to dispense with first Alan Pardew and then Nigel Adkins, together with the continued success of Southampton's feted academy, fed Cortese's belief in his "project".
When Katharina Liebherr began to demand a greater say in how things were being run, cracks started to appear. It is now clear that, according to filings in Switzerland, Cortese resigned as a Mali director in October last year on the very same day as Liebherr was appointed to the board.
Cortese, who pledged his future to a club he described as his "baby" in the face of overtures from an unnamed Italian club earlier in his tenure, was well remunerated for his heavy workload – the most recent accounts show he took home £1.6m during Southampton's promotion season from the Championship.
The manager, Mauricio Pochettino, insisted that he was as shocked by Cortese's decision to quit as the players and fans, but it is clear that the Italian's departure had been brewing for months.
And yet while Cortese had become used to running the club as if it were his own, totting up the large investment made by the Liebherrs in Southampton since 2009, it is perhaps not unreasonable for Katharina to insist on having more of a say.
The most recent results for the holding company DMWSL 613, for which Cortese is listed as the only director, detail the spending for the year to June 2012, the season in which Southampton were promoted back to the Premier League.
They show that the club made a £12m loss in 2011-12, up from £11m the year before. Loans of £38m were ploughed into the club and later converted to equity.
The gamble on promotion paid off, unlocking the riches of the Premier League. But it also leaves Liebherr, who has never been spotted at the Premier League's shareholders' meetings and had met Pochettino only once before Thursday, at the end-of-season party, with a dilemma.
Having spent an estimated £75m on players over the past five years, and assuming she feels little of the emotional connection to the club that her father exhibited, she may well be pondering the risk/reward ratio of further investment.
Although Southampton benefit from the rewards of the Premier League's £5.5bn television deals, the investment required for the next stage of Cortese's "project" – to compete seriously for European qualification – may have given her pause for thought and be a factor in her desire for a greater say in the operational side of the business.
With the departure of the sometimes volatile Cortese, she finds herself at once desperately searching for a new chief executive to run the club while facing pressure from a sceptical fanbase to explain her actions in the knowledge the summer could bring further flux.
Southampton fans, cheered in recent seasons by successive promotions and the pleasing style of football employed by Adkins and Pochettino as they plotted a course to a permanent position among the elite, would be concerned at the prospect of being pitched back into the game of Russian roulette that new ownership has become.
Having experienced a narrow escape in 2007, when the club were nearly bought by the hedge fund Sisu that went on to alight upon now homeless Coventry City, and endured a recent flirtation with administration, they will be more aware than most of the uncertainty any move to sell the club could bring. At the same time there is, as yet, no indication that Katharina's intentions are anything other than benign.
One of the mottos of the Liebherr Group, the huge company founded by Katharina's grandfather in Germany with interests in everything from maritime cranes to hotels, remains: "We aim to maintain our consistency and trustworthiness for many years to come."
After Hans Liebherr died in 1993, his son Markus handed most of his shares to his brothers and sisters and founded Mali Holdings in 2000.
Markus had an estimated fortune of £3bn when he died, bequeathing Katharina not only his companies and wealth but a football club to which she has little connection save for the cranes in the harbour that carry her family name.
Fans will be hoping that, despite the sudden turmoil, she also bears in mind the values of that company when it comes to deciding Saints' ultimate fate.
Additional reporting by Philip Oltermann in Berlin