Axel Springer chief joins bil­lion­aire club with $1.2bn share wind­fall

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Ben Woods

THE boss of Ger­man me­dia gi­ant Axel Springer has be­come an in­stant bil­lion­aire through a $1.2bn (£940m) share wind­fall.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive Mathias Doepfner has been handed 15pc of the com­pany by Friede Springer, the heiress and con­trol­ling share­holder of the news­pa­per and ad­ver­tis­ing busi­ness. Mr Doepfner has also bought a fur­ther 4.1pc of her shares, mean­ing the pair will each hold 22pc of the com­pany.

Ms Springer said the move con­firms Doepfner as her suc­ces­sor to the busi­ness, which pub­lishes Ger­many’s mostread news­pa­per Bild and na­tional broad­sheet Die Welt.

Founded in Ham­burg shortly af­ter the Sec­ond World War, Axel Springer has ex­panded from a news­pa­per busi­ness into a Euro­pean dig­i­tal me­dia com­pany.

It owns ti­tles such as fi­nan­cial news web­site Busi­ness In­sider and the Ger­man edi­tion of Rolling Stone mag­a­zine.

Amer­i­can pri­vate eq­uity gi­ant KKR be­came the big­gest share­holder in Axel Springer last year when it paid $3.2bn for a 43.5pc stake.

As well as own­ing a greater slice of the group, Mr Doepfner will also be re­spon­si­ble for Ms Springer’s vot­ing rights.

Mr Doepfner joined Die Welt in 1998 be­fore be­com­ing chair­man of Axel Springer’s man­age­ment board in 2002.

He ac­quired the shares from Ms Springer at €62.42 (£57.15) per share, the same price as KKR’s take-pri­vate of­fer. Ms Springer said she had found “the ideal so­lu­tion” to safe­guard the fu­ture of Axel Springer and her foun­da­tion.

“I am very happy and grate­ful to have found my suc­ces­sor in Mathias,” she added.

“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”.

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