Top German tabloid editor ousted over misconduct claims

By FRANK JORDANS 19 October 2021, 12:00AM

LONDON (AP) — The powerful chief editor of Germany's best-selling newspaper has been removed from his post following revelations of misconduct, publishing company Axel Springer SE said Monday.

Julian Reichelt was axed from the helm of the Bild tabloid “with immediate effect,” the company said in a statement. The 41-year-old was suspended earlier this year as part of company-ordered probe into his management style, but later reinstated.

Axel Springer said it had gained new information about Reichelt's current behavior “as a result of press reports” that it had followed up on, revealing that he had failed to “clearly separate personal and private matters” even after being required to do so following the internal investigation.

Reichelt had also lied to the board about this, the company added.

Axel Springer said it would appoint Johannes Boie, 37, as the new chair of Bild’s three-member editorial board.

The announcement came after it emerged over the weekend that journalists at a rival German media group had been investigating allegations against Reichelt but were prevented from publishing their findings.

In a letter dated Friday, four senior reporters at the Ippen media group accused their company and its publisher, Dirk Ippen, of a “breach of trust” for deciding to halt the report, which had been months in the making and was due to be published Sunday.

The Ippen media group said it had nixed the story to "avoid the impression we might want to economically harm a competitor." It denied that there had been any pressure from Axel Springer executives over the matter.

Reichelt, one of the mightiest figures in German media, was briefly suspended earlier this year amid an investigation into allegations that included bullying and abusing his position of power toward female staff. He was later reinstated after the company said his actions didn’t warrant dismissal.

While Ippen held back on its story, the New York Times published a report Sunday containing new details from the internal probe into Reichelt's alleged affair with a trainee.

In its statement, Axel Springer said the internal investigation, which was handled by an independent law firm, never included allegations of sexual harassment or abuse against Reichelt, but rather centered around “consensual romantic relationships with Bild staffers and evidence of abuse of power in connection with this.”

At the time, the company said, a decision was made to give Reichelt a second chance.

“In the context of the latest media report, the company has obtained further indications of ongoing misconduct by Julian Reichelt,” it said. “That is why the board now considers it unavoidable to end (Reichelt's) role.”

It separately announced legal steps against “third parties” for releasing confidential business information and private communication with the aim of trying to harm the company and having Reichelt removed.

Axel Springer has successfully expanded its business in the United States in recent years. It owns online media company Insider and the business-oriented Morning Brew, and in August it announced a deal to buy the U.S.-based political news company Politico and the tech news site Protocol.

By FRANK JORDANS 19 October 2021, 12:00AM
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