Mathias Doepfner, CEO of Germany’s largest publisher since 2002, will acquire 4.1 percent of the firm, and receive another 15 percent — 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 percent, similar to Friede Springer’s stake.
Together they will control 45.4 percent 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 US investment fund KKR, which last year became Axel Springer’s biggest shareholder after it paid 2.9 billion euros for a 43.5-percent stake. It has since raised its shareholding to 47.6 percent.
“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. | Agence France-Presse