Axel Springer is one of Europe's largest media companies, although traditionally its profile is centred mainly on Germany. It is best known for Bild, the top-selling mass-market newspaper in Germany (and indeed all of Europe), and leading quality paper Die Welt and Berlin Sunday paper BZ. Bild also serves as the umbrella for a collection of specialist auto and computer magazines. However the group is moving steadily away from traditional print towards digital media. It sold almost all of its German regional newspapers, women's magazines and TV listings titles in 2013 to rival Funke. Soon afterwards, it acquired 24-hour TV news channel N24, which now operates under the Welt TV banner. The group also owns international recruitment websites Stepstone and TotalJobs, and acquired property portals Immowelt (of Germany), Immoweb (Belgium) and French market leader SeLoger. It acquired French rival Logic-Immo in 2018 and has also accumulated a 27% stake in UK-based PurpleBricks. Springer has publishing joint ventures in Eastern Europe and Switzerland with Ringier. In its biggest venture to-date into English language publishing it acquired business site Business Insider in 2015, followed a year later by online digital business site eMarketer. It also operates a joint venture in Europe with political commentator Politico. Mathias Doepfner is CEO. The business was founded by Axel Springer in Hamburg a year after the end of WWII to publish radio listings magazine Hoerzu. He introduced local evening newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt two years later, followed in 1952 by Bild. A year later Springer acquired Die Welt, the newspaper originally launched in 1946 by British occupying forces along the same model as The Times of London. Springer himself died in 1985, and the bulk of his estate - including what was then the controlling 43% stake in Axel Springer verlag - was inherited by his last wife Friede Springer, formerly the family nanny. In 2019, she and CEO Doepfner gave their support to a private buyout offer from investment firm KKR, which acquired all public equity. Following further transfers, KKR's Traviata investment entity has ended up with the controlling 48.5% stake in the business, while Friede Springer relinquished half of her own shares to Matthias Doepfner. They each have 22% of equity. The remaining shares are owned by managers and a handful of family insiders. As a private entity, Axel Springer no longer reveals financial information. For 2019, group revenues were €3.1bn. Over 73% of sales came from digital operations, and just over half of revenues from Germany. News media still accounts for the largest share of income, but jobs and real estate classifieds are catching up fast and already contribute a larger share of profits.
Capsule checked 7th May 2021
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Adbrands Daily Update 12th Jun 2018: Axel Springer's controlling shareholder Friede Springer and CEO Mathias Doepfner have given their backing to a private buyout offer tabled by US investor KKR. The proposal values Springer at €6.7bn, a 40% premium to the group's undisturbed value. "The strategic partnership with KKR would enable us to pursue major growth opportunities by providing additional financial capabilities while relieving the mere focus on short-term financial targets," said Doepfner.
Adbrands Weekly Update 16th Jun 2016: German publishing giant Axel Springer expanded its US business portfolio with the acquisition of digital media trade source eMarketer. It is acquiring a 93% stake for $242m. That price tag is equivalent to 5.5 times eMarketer's revenues last year and more than 18 times EBITDA. The new acquisition will join Business Insider, bought by Springer last year.
Adbrands Weekly Update 30th Sept 2015: As anticipated last week, German publishing giant Axel Springer has acquired an additional 88% holding in online service Business Insider for $343m, building a total stake of 97%. The remaining 3% will continue to be owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, another prior investor in the business. Founder and editor Henry Blodget remains at the helm.
Adbrands Weekly Update 24th Sep 2015: Beaten in its recent attempts to acquire both AOL and the Financial Times, German publishing group Axel Springer has instead turned its attention to online site Business Insider, in which it already has a small investment. According to reports it is close to agreeing the purchase of a controlling stake in that publication at a valuation of as much as $560m. The company is run by former Wall Street analyst Henry Blodget. If a deal takes place it would be the biggest acquisition of a digital publishing business since AOL bought Huffington Post in 2011 for $315m.
Adbrands Weekly Update 9th July 2015: There were reports from Germany that two of the country's biggest media groups - satellite broadcaster ProSiebenSat1 and newspaper & magazine giant Axel Springer - had reopened talks of merger. Almost exactly a decade ago, Axel Springer's €4.2bn offer to acquire ProSiebenSat1 was blocked by regulators. A new deal might meet with more chance of approval because of the emergence of new competitors, such as Sky Deutschland, Google and Facebook. The passing years have also seen ProSiebenSat1 outgrow its potential partner: it is now worth twice as much as Axel Springer in value. However, even together the two companies would be only a little more than a third the size of shared rival Bertelsmann by revenues. Springer said that its majority shareholder Friede Springer would retain a controlling stake in any potential merger. The talks eventually ended without agreement.
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