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Axel Springer’s US Expansion: Aiming For Top Publisher

Berlin – The media group Axel Springer wants to significantly expand its reach in the USA. CEO Mathias Döpfner said in an interview with the German Press Agency: “Today we are the fourth largest publisher in the USA in terms of reach. We have hired 400 journalists there in the last 15 months.” When asked where Springer will be in five years, the 60-year-old said: “We want to keep growing in the USA. You can go from 4th to 3rd, from 3 to 2, maybe even one day from 2 to 1. It’s impossible Not.”

Döpfner explained: “Politico will expand in the USA and also in Europe and can become a truly international brand.” With Insider you are already in 19 different countries. “Perhaps we will also buy new journalistic offers. And found them ourselves.”

In October 2021, Springer completed the purchase of the US digital media group Politico – the largest company takeover in the company’s history. The journalistic digital brands Insider and Morning Brew also belong to Axel Springer. The group, which is best known in Germany for its Bild and Welt brands, says it now employs 3,400 journalists worldwide, with an increasing number of them in the USA. Döpfner said: “That’s twice as many journalists as the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal and more than the BBC and News Corp.”

Springer Wants to Become a Pure Digital Company

In 2022, despite crises such as the Ukraine war, energy and inflation, Springer achieved sales of around 3.9 billion euros and a profit of around three quarters of a billion euros. That was more than originally budgeted, said the CEO. 85 percent of sales and more than 95 percent of profits come from the digital business. The group, which currently has around 18,000 employees, intends to say goodbye to the printed newspaper business – without giving an exact date – and become a purely digital company.

Springer withdrew from the stock exchange in 2020 and had previously entered into a cooperation with the US financial investor Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) in 2019 for accelerated growth. The job exchange portal Stepstone wants to bring Springer to the stock exchange. When asked when he expected KKR to withdraw from the group, the Springer boss replied: “When they got on board, they told us that they had a time horizon of at least five years, more like seven, maybe ten . But that’s not an issue at the moment.” One is “extremely satisfied” with the cooperation with KKR.

The company’s headquarters are in Berlin, and relocating to America is obviously not an option. “In the next few years, the growth engine of Axel Springer’s media business will be much more in America than in Germany or in other European markets. That there will then be something like a second location – that’s a given.” At the same time, the 60-year-old said: “I think it’s unlikely that the legal location will formally be relocated from Berlin to America. Axel Springer is a transatlantic media company.”

Döpfner Announces “Staff Redeployment”

In the meantime, the group in Germany was working on a new structure for the media business with the flagship brands Bild and Welt. When asked whether there would be layoffs at the two brands, Döpfner said: “Personnel redeployment definitely. In one place it will be less, in another more. That also means separations of employees.” He did not name an order of magnitude or when.

Since autumn, the structures of the German media business have been reviewed against the background of the accelerated change in the industry. The circulation of printed newspapers has been declining for decades, and the digital business is also gaining in importance for the group outside of journalism.

Only recently did Springer significantly cut back the programming of the still young television channel Bild TV. Döpfner explained: “In retrospect, this highly ambitious news channel concept was not the right idea.” The TV channel started in August 2021, viewer ratings fell short of expectations.

Image is Part of The DNA of Axel Springer

Springer intends to retain Bild as the largest German tabloid brand. When asked whether it was conceivable to part with Bild, the 60-year-old replied: “No, I can’t imagine that. Bild is part of Axel Springer’s DNA.”

Regarding the confusion of personnel in the Bild editor-in-chief and the new co-editor-in-chief Robert Schneider, who was previously Editor-in-Chief of “Focus”, Döpfner said: “We are very much looking forward to him. We do not yet know exactly when he will come, because Burda is initially about his successor has to decide.”

The media had reported that Schneider’s company was asking for a drug test. Döpfner criticized: “The fact that we also define certain recruitment requirements for certain management positions, like many other internationally active companies – this can then also include a drug test – that’s one thing. But the way in which this was publicly discussed was quite unprecedented Attack on the personality of the person concerned.” The drug test practice in the house is a “new, internationally more common development”.

In the interview, the Springer boss did not respond to the scandal surrounding the dismissed former “Bild” editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt, which he rejected, allegations of abuse of power: “As far as cultural development at Bild is concerned, we have learned and changed a lot. Otherwise, I could only repeat what we’ve said so many times before. And I don’t want to do that anymore. We’re done with it and after two years that’s legitimate.”

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