mergers and acquisitions

Axel Springer heiress taps successor, gives him shares

Agence France-Presse
Axel Springer heiress taps successor, gives him shares

Mathias Doepfner speaks during Axel Springer's annual press conference at its headquarters in Berlin, Germany, on March 7, 2019. - Axel Springer said it faced a squeeze on profits in 2019, but remained confident thanks to an on-target performance last year and a strong foundation on classified ads. (Photo by Bernd von Jutrczenka / dpa / AFP) / Germany OUT


Mathias Doepfner, CEO of Germany's largest publisher Axel Springer since 2002, will acquire 4.1% of the firm and receive another 15%

The owner of the German publishing house Axel Springer on Thursday, September 24, tapped the media giant’s current chief executive as her “successor,” handing him 19% of the company as a “gift,” the media giant said.

Mathias Doepfner, CEO of Germany’s largest publisher since 2002, will acquire 4.1% of the firm and receive another 15% – worth around one billion euros ($1.2 billion) – as an “envisaged gift” from Friede Springer, widow of the company’s founder Axel.

“I am very happy and grateful that I have found my successor in Mathias,” Friede Springer, 78, said in a statement.

The move will see Doepfner’s shareholding increase to around 22%, similar to Friede Springer’s stake.

Together they will control 45.4% of the media giant whose publications include Germany’s top-selling Bild tabloid.

Friede Springer’s voting rights will now be exercised by Doepfner, the company added.

The announcement follows an agreement with United States investment fund KKR, which last year became Axel Springer’s biggest shareholder after it paid 2.9 billion euros for a 43.5% stake. It has since raised its shareholding to 47.6%.

“Together with our new partner KKR, we will ensure that Axel Springer remains active and relevant as an independent media business and home of journalism,” Friede Springer said. 

Doepfner, who came through the ranks as a journalist and editor to lead the company, will now have even greater influence in Germany’s media landscape. 

Axel Springer’s media outlets include the conservative German broadsheet Die Welt, Welt TV news station, the German edition of Rolling Stone magazine, as well as online brands like Politico Europe and Business Insider.

The company has invested heavily in digital technologies in recent years to cope with the fall in printed advertising, and owns a portfolio of online classified websites. –

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