Axel Springer in Talks to Buy a Chunk of Politico…or Maybe Even the Whole Thing

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Politico is typically the one beaming out the latest juicy word-on-the-street, but on Tuesday, the Washington insider publication was itself the subject of the chattering class.

Sources dished to The Wall Street Journal that German publishing giant Axel Springer is in talks to purchase a stake in Politico or potentially even buy the publication outright. The two firms already have a joint business in the form of Politico Europe, and further cementing the partnership would be Axel’s latest push towards becoming a powerhouse of American digital media.

A Penchant for Profitable Publications

Launched in 2007, Politico revolutionized Washington political coverage with morning email briefings, bloggy analysis, and in-depth reporting on legislative affairs, lobbying, and elections. The company has since established a lucrative events business and offers several pricey subscription services.

For Axel Springer, that recipe offers serious appeal. While already the owner of sensationalist tabloid Bild and sober broadsheet Die Welt in Germany, the company is focused on amassing a dependable U.S. publishing portfolio:

  • In 2015, Axel Springer bought Business Insider for $343 million. While an exodus of staff followed (along with complaints the publication became focused on “traffic over enterprise reporting,”) BI has grown rapidly since the acquisition. It was profitable in 2020 on $150 million in revenue, a 30% year-over-year increase.
  • Last year, Axel and Insider bought a majority stake in Morning Brew, valuing the fast-growing newsletter company at $75 million. Brew, which covers everything from news to marketing to HR to retail, was also profitable last year on $20 million in revenue.

Somebody Make a Deal: There’s still plenty of recent precedence for negotiations to fall apart. Axel Springer held talks not long ago to buy digital news publisher Axios, which ultimately didn’t pan out. Months earlier, Axios abandoned merger talks with sports publication The Athletic, which endured its own failed acquisition by the New York Times.

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