He also said the Bild corporate culture would not be replicated in the United States. “We will not tolerate any behavior in our organizations around the world that does not follow our very clear compliance policies. We aspire to be the best digital media company in the democratic world with the highest ethical standards and an inclusive and open culture, ”he said.
Axel Springer forwarded a letter from lawyers stating that Bild was not legally obliged to fire Mr Reichelt.
But a March 1 message from Mr Döpfner to a friend with whom he later fell out over how the company handled the allegations against Mr Reichelt, Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre, suggests that although Mr. Döpfner played a central role in deciding how to act on the findings of the investigation as managing director, he may not have been impartial. In the message, sent after Axel Springer learned of the allegations but before the investigation began, Mr Döpfner referred to an opinion column from Mr Reichelt complaining about the Covid restrictions.
Mr Döpfner wrote that “we must be particularly careful” in the investigation, because Mr Reichelt “is truly the last and only journalist in Germany who still courageously rebels against the new authoritarian state of the GDR”, according to one copy of the message I got. (The reference to the GDR, or Communist East Germany, in this context, is a bit like a “waking crowd”.) Mr. Döpfner also wrote that Mr. Reichelt had “powerful enemies”.
Mr Döpfner’s political statement in this post may seem at odds with his stated plans for his new US properties, which The Wall Street Journal reported last week, “will embody his vision of unbiased, non-partisan reporting, versus militant journalism, which he says reinforces societal polarization in the United States and elsewhere.”
As Axel Springer struggled to contain the fallout from the Bild inquiry, Mr Döpfner focused on Washington. This spring and summer, he conducted covert and side conversations with leaders of two rival Washington-based news organizations, Politico and Axios, the site launched in 2016 by Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen and Roy Schwartz, all previously of Politico. .
Mr Döpfner’s aim was to buy the two and combine them into a strong competitor to the country’s biggest news outlets. The acquisition of Politico, announced in August, was a triumph for his company. But behind the scenes, Axel Springer’s courteous style had alienated his other target.