Springer rattles media landscape with bid for biggest newspaper rival

A surprise bid by Germany’s biggest newspaper firm Axel Springer for the second-largest group WAZ has rattled the media landscape, prompting speculation over possible ulterior motives.

Springer rattles media landscape with bid for biggest newspaper rival
Photo: DPA

Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung Group owns more than 27 daily newspapers across Germany as well as important publications elsewhere in Europe, while Springer owns the Bild tabloid as well as Die Welt and a host of magazines.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Saturday that Springer had offered €1.4 billion for the whole WAZ group, but had also suggested a series of other, partial purchase offers.

Only a few years ago the WAZ Group had offended Springer with a buy-out offer. At the time Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner had rejected it, saying the two groups did not fit together. Yet now he has sent a five-page letter detailing his offers to the WAZ shareholders.

It has been seen as an attack on the WAZ group – just as it is being shaken by arguments between the heirs of its founders, who each own 50 percent of its shares.

Petra Grotkamp, from the Funke family has reportedly upset her own relatives by offering the shareholding family, the Brosts, €470 million for their share. The Süddeutsche Zeitung said this could lead to court cases.

Grotkamp and the Funke family told Springer on Friday evening they were not interested in the offer. “There is no chance of negotiations with Axel Springer,” they said in a statement.

The Brost family – some of whom are underage – are said to want to sell, but are being represented by the executor of a will.

And while speculation can continue about what Springer might be interested in – perhaps the WAZ-owned Austrian tabloids Krone and Kurier, a range of women’s magazines, or listings magazines – it would seem any kind of sale would be unlikely.

An analysis in Der Spiegel suggested anything less than a full buy-out would be unfitting to Springer’s business style – and even if this were of interest to the WAZ owners, would be viewed very critically by Germany’s cartel office.

The magazine concluded it was likely that Springer had made its bid to muddy the waters within its rival and make it difficult for clear decisions to be made.

The Local/hc

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Bild editor steps down over allegations of affairs with employees

The editor-in-chief of German newspaper Bild is stepping down temporarily while he is investigated over several complaints made by women, publisher Axel Springer group said on Saturday.

Bild editor steps down over allegations of affairs with employees
Bild editor Julian Reichelt at the Bild newspaper's 'Sommerfest' party in 2018. Photo: picture alliance / Jörg Carstensen/dpa | Jörg Carstensen

Julian Reichelt had “asked the board of directors to be temporarily relieved of his duties until the allegations have been clarified”, the group said in a statement. The complaints prompted the company to launch an internal investigation led by lawyers.

Reichelt is suspected of having promoted interns with whom he had affairs and then sidelining or firing them, the Spiegel newspaper reported. Members of staff came forward months ago but Spiegel said management had been slow to look into the allegations.

However, the publisher defended itself in its statement: “As a matter of  principle Axel Springer always has to distinguish between rumors, indications and clear evidence.”

It said the firm would take action when there was clear evidence, adding: “Currently, there is no such clear evidence. Prejudgments based on rumors are unacceptable for the Axel Springer corporate culture.”

Reichelt denies the claims, the group said, adding that the investigation was ongoing.