Dopfner, Mathias


Dopfner, Mathias
▪ 2006

      In 2005 Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of German newspaper and magazine publisher Axel Springer Verlag AG, set his sights on Springer's ambitious growth campaign, particularly the $4.4 billion purchase of ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG, Germany's largest television concern. The acquisition, endorsed by shareholders but still awaiting regulatory approval at year's end, would expand Springer's markets by adding broadcasting to its traditional print-media mix. More significant, it would move the firm into direct competition with the privately owned German media giant Bertelsmann AG.

      Döpfner was born on Jan. 5, 1963, in Bonn, Ger. He studied musicology and theatrical arts before he joined (1982) the staff of the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Later he worked in public relations (1988–90) and held various jobs in publishing, including editorial jobs with the Berlin weekly Wochenpost (1994–96) and the newspaper Hamburger Morgenpost (1996–98). Döpfner joined Axel Springer Verlag in 1998 as editor in chief of Die Welt, Springer's daily news counterpart to its flashier tabloid, Bild. Within four years of his arrival, the 39-year-old Döpfner was named chief executive of Axel Springer. He cut costs, expanded business lines, and in 2004 increased Springer's earnings by 23%.

      Döpfner's occasional forays into the editorial pages echoed the actions and opinions of the late Axel Springer, the company's notoriously outspoken founder, and earned him the crucial approval of the founder's widow, Friede Springer, who controlled 60% of the firm's stock. Indeed, Döpfner was known for expressing his politically conservative opinions in newspapers around the world, including The Wall Street Journal. He made a splash in 2004 when he published his provocative essay “Europe, Thy Name Is Cowardice,” in which he decried European tolerance and accommodation of deadly enemies. Döpfner's managerial moves addressed a world driven by global competition and instantaneous communication. Springer's acquisition of ProSiebenSat.1, its first step outside publishing, would give the company access to five German television channels that claimed a combined 45% market share. The move would also permit advertisers to maximize their presence across Springer's newspapers, magazines, TV programming, and Web sites. Some critics, however, asserted that the deal merely expanded the outlets through which Döpfner could voice his opinions, which included support of the Christian Democratic Union, Israel, and U.S. foreign policy.

      The acquisition of ProSiebenSat.1 in Springer's home country complemented the firm's expansion into emerging markets. Döpfner placed special emphasis on gaining—and holding—prominence in new markets, especially in Eastern Europe and Asia. The firm drew upon the success of its photo-rich Bild—Germany's best-selling newspaper—before it launched (2003) the Polish newspaper Fakt, which by 2005 was Poland's most popular daily. Döpfner was continuing to exploit realistic growth opportunities to expand his company's reach—and its profits.

Sarah Forbes Orwig

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Universalium. 2010.

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