KKR-backed Axel Springer acquires Politico

Axel Springer SE updates

Axel Springer, the German publishing group backed by private equity firm KKR, has agreed to buy Politico as it continues its expansion into US media.

For the Berlin-headquartered company, the takeover of the political news site is the latest in a series of digital media acquisitions in the US in recent years as it seeks to become a global publisher.

Since failing to acquire the Financial Times six years ago, the publisher of Germany’s Die Welt and Bild has bought online news site Business Insider for $343m in 2015 and a majority stake in newsletter publisher Morning Brew.

Axel Springer is already in a 50/50 joint venture with Politico for a Europe-focused version of its website. Thursday’s deal includes the remaining 50 per cent of Politico Europe as well as Protocol, a technology news website also founded and controlled by publisher Robert Allbritton.

The acquisition of Politico has been mooted for several years, although more recently Axel Springer’s chief Mathias Döpfner had also considered other acquisitions. Among them is Axios, a digital news company launched by former Politico journalists.

Axel Springer’s decision to delist in early 2020 after KKR became its largest shareholder has allowed the media group to accelerate investments in digital media and its classified business free from scrutiny of public investors.

The company also operates one of the world’s largest portfolios of digital classified businesses, which includes the jobs portal StepStone as well as property sites such as Immonet.

Politico launched in 2007 with two former Washington Post journalists at the helm and funding from Allbritton. The Virginia-based company has over the past decade taken on major competitors and upended the political press in Washington.

In 2014 Politico teamed up with Axel Springer to launch the Brussels-based publication Politico Europe.

In a statement announcing the transaction, Allbritton said growth would be “better advanced by a larger company with a significant global footprint” and called his 15 years at Politico “the ride of a lifetime”.

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