Axel Springer to acquire Politico

Acquisition of news website adds to German publisher’s portfolio of U.S.-based media holdings.

By guest authors Dave Sebastian and Benjamin Mullin from the Wall Street Journal

Captions courtesy by the Wall Street Journal

Axel Springer SE has agreed to buy Washington, D.C., publisher Politico, expanding the German publisher’s portfolio of U.S.-based media holdings.

The deal is valued at more than USD 1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

Axel Springer will also acquire the remaining 50 % share of its current joint venture Politico Europe, as well as tech news site Protocol from Robert Allbritton, founder and publisher of Politico and Protocol, the companies said Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal earlier this month reported that Axel Springer was in talks to purchase an ownership stake in Politico, and that the discussions also included the possibility of a full buyout. Launched in 2007, Politico reshaped Washington coverage with its blanket reporting on all things political, rapid-fire blog posts, morning email blasts and in-depth tracking of elections and legislative happenings. That later paved the way for a move toward events and high-price subscription services.

Axel Springer teamed up with Politico in 2014 to launch Politico’s European edition the following year in a 50/50 joint venture. The operation is based in Brussels with offices throughout the continent.

Editorial and management leadership teams of Politico in the U.S., Politico Europe and Protocol will stay in place, and will continue to operate their publications separately from Axel Springer’s other U.S.-based brands, the companies said.

“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,” Mr. Allbritton said.

Axel Springer, which owns the German newspapers Bild and Die Welt, has been adding to its U.S. media holdings in recent years. The company purchased Business Insider in 2015 for about USD 500 million and recently bought Morning Brew, a digital publisher that has focused largely on business.

The companies expect the deal to close in the fourth quarter.