Axel Springer files criminal complaint against former top editor

Axel Springer is pursuing a prison criticism and civil authorized motion towards a former prime tabloid editor sacked for alleged misconduct, in a serious escalation of a brawl that has shaken Germany’s media world.

In a prison criticism filed late final week, the German publishing group accused Julian Reichelt, a former editor of the tabloid Bild, of sharing confidential inside knowledge with one other German media outlet after giving written assurances that he not possessed this knowledge.

In a parallel civil lawsuit filed final week at a Berlin labour court docket, Axel Springer claimed Reichelt had breached the phrases of a monetary settlement agreed after he was ousted from Bild in October 2021. The corporate is pushing for the return of his severance pay, a seven-digit-figure in response to folks acquainted with the small print, and can be claiming important damages for alleged breach of contract.

Reichelt, 42, is a longtime confidant of Axel Springer chief govt Mathias Döpfner and was as soon as one of many nation’s strongest journalists. He was sacked after allegations of sexual misconduct and abuse of energy that he denies.

Axel Springer confirmed that it had filed the civil lawsuit and the prison criticism however declined to remark additional.

Axel Springer boss Mathias Döpfner with former Bild editors and writers Tanit Koch, Julian Reichelt and Kai Diekmann, © Bernd Wüstneck/dpa

The Berlin labour court docket confirmed that the civil criticism, first reported by the German publication Der Spiegel, had been obtained. Prison prosecutors instructed the FT that they’d not but formally processed any prison criticism towards Reichelt, however added that this course of may take a number of days.

Reichelt’s lawyer Ben Irle instructed the FT that neither he nor his consumer have been conscious of any lawsuit or prison criticism by the writer, including that leaking such data to the media was an “try and intimidate and distract” from alleged flaws in an inside investigation of his consumer’s conduct.

Reichelt was accused of exploiting his place at Bild by having frequent affairs with interns and subordinates and rewarding them with promotions. He has repeatedly acknowledged that every one allegations towards him have been primarily based on “lies”.

The authorized case and criticism have been filed after Axel Springer obtained a warning from one other media group that Reichelt, unsolicited, had supplied handy over confidential inside communication from Axel Springer, in addition to personal communications involving Springer workers that probably violated their privateness rights, in response to folks near the small print. The rival writer instructed Springer that it had destroyed the information.

The scandal that prompted the ousting of Reichelt resurfaced this month with the publication of a novel impressed by the saga, written by a former Döpfner confidant who performed a key function in encouraging ladies to talk up about their experiences.

Every week earlier than the novel got here out, a trove of personal textual content messages from Döpfner to Reichelt have been leaked to German media. Within the messages, Döpfner acknowledged that East Germans have been “both communists or fascists”, railed towards “illiberal Muslims” and praised local weather change. Additionally they appeared to point out he had lobbied for constructive protection of the pro-business Free Democrats within the weeks earlier than a nationwide election in 2021.

Döpfner, who has run Axel Springer since 2002, later apologised for the messages.

The run of damaging headlines underlines how the scandal at Bild continues to reverberate in Germany, the place the tabloid is feared and revered by the political elite. It has additionally raised questions for KKR, the US personal fairness agency that along with the Canadian pension fund CPPIB owns a 48.5 per cent stake in Axel Springer at a time when the writer is striving to turn out to be a number one media firm within the US.

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