KKR-backed Axel Springer buys $1bn Politico

Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner

German media giant Axel Springer announced it signed an agreement to acquire Politico, including the remaining 50% share of its current joint venture Politico Europe, as well as the tech news website Protocol, from Robert Allbritton.

The companies did not disclose terms, but several news reports said the price is around $1 billion.

US private equity firm KKR owns around 48% of Axel Springer.

Separately, CNBC has reported that Axel Springer is no longer in talks to buy digital news outlet Axios, which was founded by Politico co-founder Jim VandeHei.

Allbritton, a founder and publisher of Politico and Protocol, will continue as publisher of both businesses.

The editorial and management leadership teams of Politico in the US, Politico Europe and Protocol will remain in place, and will continue to operate their publications separately from Axel Springer’s other brands headquartered in the US.

“Politico will complement and strengthen Axel Springer’s portfolio with an authoritative voice offering inside perspective and analysis of politics and policy in Washington D.C., across the U.S., and around the globe,” said Axel Springer .

“Together with Insider and Morning Brew, which are already part of the company’s portfolio, Axel Springer’s U.S.-headquartered news brands will have a significant reach.

“Over its 15-year history, Politico has emerged as one of the world’s most-influential news sources, and one of the preeminent models of successful media innovation in the 21st Century.

“Today, more than 500 journalists at Politico and its sibling publication Protocol, launched in 2020, help set the agenda on the most urgent issues dominating the global public policy landscape.

“With significant revenue derived from high-value business-to-business subscriptions and advertising, the publishing model has produced steady growth and healthy profits, and has a proven strategy for further robust expansion moving forward.

“Axel Springer and Politico in the U.S. have been joint venture partners since 2014 when they launched Politico Europe.

“The Brussels-based publication has since become an indispensable source of information in the EU and has continuously grown both its newsroom and its revenues and has been profitable since 2019.”

Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner said: “Politico’s outstanding team has disrupted digital political journalism and set new standards.

“A true North Star.

“It will be a privilege and a special responsibility to help shape the future of this outstanding media company.

“Objective quality journalism is more important than ever, and we mutually believe in the necessity of editorial independence and nonpartisan reporting.

“This is crucial for our future success and accelerated growth.”

Politico and Protocol founder and publisher Robert Allbritton said: “My 15-year adventure with Politico has been the ride of a lifetime.

“I reach this milestone with a sense of satisfaction that I hope is shared by every Politico.

“Together we have built what is without a doubt the most impressive and most enduring of the many experiments in new publications over the past generation.

“Particularly in recent years, we have put the emphasis on doing rather than boasting, and what multiple competitors have aspired to—a consistently profitable publication that supports true journalistic excellence—we have achieved.

“Above all, I have always known that ownership is about responsibility.

“As Politico has prospered in recent years, accompanied by the successful launch of Protocol, it became steadily more clear that the responsibility to grow the business on a global scale, to better serve the audience and create more opportunities for our employees, might be better advanced by a larger company with a significant global footprint and ambitions than it could be by me as owner of a family business.

“As I have often said, I would only welcome a new investor that reflected my values and Politico’s distinctive company values.

“Axel Springer and Mathias Döpfner and his team meet that test better than any other company in media today.

“I look forward to working with them as publisher of Politico and Protocol as we reach even greater heights.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.