German Media Giant Buys Politico For $1 Billion In Latest Blockbuster Deal

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Aug 26, 2021 - 01:15 PM

Update (1005ET): Axel Springer has just confirmed that it's no longer in talks to buy Axios. 


Don't worry - there are plenty of SPACs out there looking to close a deal and collect that juicy promote. 

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Politico, the left-leaning Washington news powerhouse which has built its reputation by publishing thinly sourced "scoops" and other Washington gossip (while instituting ultra-left-leaning policies like banning the use of the word "crisis" in reports about the border) has officially been sold to Axel Springer, the German media conglomerate that already owns Business Insider.

CNBC reports that the deal values Politico at roughly $1 billion, the high end of the range of prices reported earlier this month, when reports about the deal talks first surfaced. 

Axel Springer said the acquisition also includes the tech news site Protocol, along with the 50% stake in Politico's Politico Europe venture (which it launched in partnership with Axel Springer) that Axel doesn't already own. In a brief statement, Axel Springer said the deal would strengthen its media portfolio, which already includes the popular newsletter Morning Brew, along with the entire "Insider" network of sites and verticals.

Politico owner Robert Allbritton will continue on as the publisher of Politico and Protocol. Notably, Axel Springer is 36% owned by private equity giant KKR. Politico claims it has been profitable since 2019. 

Axel Springer was reportedly in talks to buy Politico rival Axios earlier this summer, but it's not clear what happened with that deal. Perhaps Axel will buy both companies, leaving a sizable chunk of the US digital media landscape in the hands of a German corporation. 

Some Twitter users questioned how a barely profitable media company could fetch such a high valuation. 

Another joked that the number was on par with the "amount of damage" Politico causes to American society daily.

While a third laughed that the acquisition of Politico by a tabloid publisher made "absolute sense."

For those who aren't used to paying for the privilege of reading Politico (the site's various "Pro" verticals and newsletters are expensive products) should probably get used to the idea - or find another source for their news.

It's the latest in a series of media deals this year which has also included Buzzfeed and Vice, two other digital media darlings that surfaced around the same time as Politico.

Read the press release announcing the deal below: 

The publishing group Axel Springer signed an agreement to acquire POLITICO, including the remaining 50 percent share of its current joint venture POLITICO Europe, as well as the tech news website Protocol from Robert Allbritton.

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. 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.

Mathias Döpfner, CEO Axel Springer, commented: “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.”

Robert L. Allbritton, Founder and Publisher of POLITICO and Protocol: “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.”

Robert Allbritton will continue as publisher of POLITICO and Protocol. The editorial and management leadership teams of POLITICO in the U.S., 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 U.S. Both parties have agreed not to disclose the deal terms. Subject to regulatory approval, closing of the transaction is expected in Q4 2021.