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Axel Springer ousts editor of Bild after misconduct charge

Axel Springer, the new German owner of Politico, has ousted the editor of Europe’s largest newspaper Bild after accusing him of continuing to mix his “private and professional affairs” and giving false statements to the publisher’s board.

The dismissal on Monday of Julian Reichelt, the 41-year-old editor of the controversial German tabloid, comes a day after the New York Times reported fresh details of an earlier investigation into alleged misconduct that exonerated him.

In that probe, Reichelt had been accused of abusing his power in consensual sexual relationships with junior staff. He was alleged to have promoted his girlfriends and demoted them after their affairs ended.

Reichelt was suspended in March for 12 days, after German media disclosed that the law firm Freshfields was conducting an investigation into the various allegations. At the time, the executive board concluded that Reichelt had made “mistakes” but stressed that they were “not punishable by criminal law”.

Reichelt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Monday, Axel Springer said the dismissal came in response to “new insights about the current behaviour of Julian Reichelt” which were investigated by the company. In a statement, the publisher said that Reichelt, even after the completion of the compliance review in early 2021 “did not clearly separate private and professional affairs” and gave false testimony about this to the executive board.

Reichelt had previously apologised for “mistakes in my dealings with colleagues” and said he would “work to create and exemplify a new corporate culture for Bild”.

The New York Times on Sunday reported testimony from young female employees who had consensual affairs with the editor and were promoted by him. “That’s how it always goes at Bild,” one of them is said to have told the investigators. “Those who sleep with the boss get a better job.”

The publishing house said on Monday that it was not familiar with the details of the witness statements until they were leaked to the press as witnesses had asked Freshfields not to share them with their employer. Axel Springer added it intended to take legal action against the leakers.

Axel Springer chief executive Mathias Döpfner said that Bild’s development under Reichelt had been “excellent”, adding that the publisher had been keen to continue the “path of cultural renewal at Bild” jointly with the editor. “This has now become impossible,” he said. Reichelt will be replaced with Johannes Boie, the current editor of Welt am Sonntag, a group Sunday paper.

Axel Springer earlier this year agreed to buy Politico, the US politics website, for about $1bn, the German publisher’s largest-ever investment as it looks to build a global media presence. Springer has focused on expanding in the US, buying newsletter business Morning Brew last year and Business Insider in 2015. The company had in 2014 struck a joint venture with Politico, creating Politico Europe.

KKR, the US private equity group, in 2019 took Axel Springer private in a deal valuing the publisher at €6.7bn.


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