The founding family of Germany’s Axel Springer and private equity firm KKR are preparing a bid to take the media group private, according to two people close to the discussions.
The offer for the company with a market value of €4.9bn is being orchestrated by Mathias Döpfner, chief executive of Springer, who has been putting a deal together for months, one of these people said.
The German executive has worked at the media group for two decades and is close to Friede Springer, the widow of Axel Springer, who founded the company in Hamburg in 1946.
A majority of the company’s shares is held by a combination of the Springer foundation, which has a 37.5 per cent stake, Ms Springer, other family members, and Mr Döpfner.
KKR declined to comment and Springer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Bloomberg first reported on the talks, saying that a bid could be put on the table within weeks.
Springer is best known as the owner of media brands such as Bild, Germany’s top-selling daily, the conservative broadsheet Die Welt, and online sites such as Business Insider and Politico Europe, in which it has a 50 per cent stake. However, the group makes the bulk of its profits from online classified ads, on sites such as StepStone and Immowelt.
Mr Döpfner has a 2.8 per cent stake in Springer, according to Springer’s latest report. Under his leadership, Springer has worked hard to reinvent itself as a digitally-focused media organisation, making numerous investments in online properties while selling regional newspapers across Germany. In 2015, it came close to buying the Financial Times, but lost out to Japanese media group Nikkei at the last moment.
Shares in Springer have fallen by more than a quarter over the past year, reflecting a poor run of results as well as broader concerns over the resilience of its online classifieds business
More to come . . .