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Inside Politico’s Billion-Dollar Drama

Old resentments among Mr. VandeHei, Mr. Harris and Mr. Allbritton then boiled over. Mr. VandeHei, Mr. Allen and the company’s chief revenue officer, Roy Schwartz, quit Politico and started the newsletter outfit Axios, an immediate success that became a serious competitor. The move brought an end to what had seemed to outsiders like a close friendship between Mr. Allbritton and Mr. VandeHei, though Mr. Allbritton said he didn’t take it personally.

“A lot of other people had much bigger emotional reactions than I did,” he said brightly.

He also said that he did not consider Axios a competitor, given that its coverage was “broader” than Politico’s. He pointed to recent Axios articles on Apple News and the hurricane approaching New Orleans.

“We would never do a piece on meteorology,” Mr. Allbritton said.

But Mr. VandeHei’s exit did not sit well with his former longtime editorial partner, Mr. Harris, and the site’s new editor, Carrie Budoff Brown. “Politico implodes,” gloated The Post. And as Axios took on the sheen of hot new thing, the rivalry between the two publications turned bitter. (At this point, assigning blame for the breach is a little like trying to glibly arbitrate the Israel-Palestine conflict.)

Mr. Harris spent the next year persuading Politico’s reporters and editors not to abandon ship, while Ms. Budoff Brown restructured the newsroom and worked to improve a workplace culture some employees described as grinding and sometimes sexist.

In May, Mr. Allbritton said he caught wind that Mr. VandeHei was in talks to sell Axios to Axel Springer. Did he start negotiating with the Germans to spoil Mr. VandeHei’s deal? I supposed that might have been part of the attraction. And in Politico’s news release announcing the planned sale, a quote from Mr. Allbritton suggested as much: “Particularly in recent years,” he said, “we have put the emphasis on doing rather than boasting.” A spokesman denied that the line was aimed at his former colleagues, and Mr. Allbritton said he was simply, after years of flirtation with Axel Springer, ready to acknowledge that his family business didn’t have the “horsepower” necessary to keep growing.

“We’re better off with this publication going to a big global company,” he said.

On the day of the announcement, The New York Times reported that Axel Springer might still pursue a deal for Axios — perhaps Mr. VandeHei would be chief executive after the two publications merged? (I’d always assumed he would run for office in his native Wisconsin one of these days.) Politico’s executives in Washington pressed the German company to add a firm denial to the story, which they did.

Asked why he had chosen Politico over Axios, Mr. Döpfner told me in a telephone interview, “It’s an easy decision that you go for the No. 1.” Mr. VandeHei called the sale “great news” for companies that produce quality journalism in a text to me.

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Insider Journalists Form a Union

Journalists at Insider, the news site formerly called Business Insider, said on Monday that they had formed a union, joining a wave that has swept digital media companies.

A majority of more than 300 editorial workers, a group that includes reporters, editors and video journalists, voted in support, union representatives said.

Insider, which changed its name this year, was co-founded by Henry Blodget in 2007 as a business-focused publication with an emphasis on the tech industry. In recent years, it has expanded its areas of coverage.

Axel Springer, a digital publishing company based in Berlin, paid $343 million for a 97 percent stake in the company in 2015 and bought the remaining 3 percent in 2018. Mr. Blodget stayed on as chief executive. Insider, which has grown during the pandemic, bumped up the minimum annual salary for staff members to $60,000 in February.

formed a union.

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Accused Bild Editor, Julian Reichelt, is Reinstated but With a Co-Editor

The German publisher Axel Springer said Thursday that Julian Reichelt, editor of its newspaper Bild, would return to work after an internal inquiry found that lapses in his conduct were not serious enough to warrant dismissal.

Alexandra Würzbach, who had been running the newspaper since Mr. Reichelt stepped back from his duties on March 12, will remain as co-editor in chief, Springer said. Her duties will include personnel management as well as her previous role overseeing Bild’s Sunday edition.

Mr. Reichelt took a leave of absence after the magazine Der Spiegel reported that Springer was investigating complaints about his relationships with female employees and accusations of abuse of power. He was also accused of using drugs at the office.

The case stood out in part because the #MeToo movement has not had as much impact in Europe as it has in the United States, and cases of powerful men brought down by accusations of misconduct against women have been relatively rare.

Mathias Döpfner, the chief executive of Springer, said in a statement. “However, having assessed everything that was revealed as part of the investigation process, we consider a parting of the ways to be inappropriate.”

“Even if there is no need to take legal steps,” Mr. Döpfner added, “there is a need for change in the management culture in Bild’s editorial teams.”

In a statement, Mr. Reichelt conceded that he had made mistakes and said he was “very sorry.”

He said he would “do everything in my power to work on an equal standing with Alexandra Würzbach, and work together with all of my colleagues as a team to create and exemplify a new corporate culture for Bild.”

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Powerful German Editor, Accused of Misconduct, Takes Leave

The editor in chief of Bild, Europe’s largest newspaper and an influential force in German politics and society, has taken a leave of absence while a law firm conducts an investigation into accusations made against him, the publication’s owner said.

Julian Reichelt, the editor, denies accusations of misconduct, Axel Springer, Bild’s publisher, said in a statement. Springer said it had no “clear evidence” of misconduct, but had hired the law firm Freshfields to investigate the accusations. It did not specify what they were.

The accusations were first reported by the magazine Spiegel, which cited half a dozen female employees who had worked for Bild and complained of coercion by Mr. Reichelt. Spiegel did not name the female employees. The magazine said the women accused Mr. Reichelt of abusing his position of authority and creating a hostile work environment but did not provide further details.

“To make sure that the investigation process can be seen through to the end undisturbed, and the editorial team can work without further burdens,” Springer said, Mr. Reichelt “has asked the Axel Springer board to release him from his functions until the accusations have been clarified.”

powerful men brought down by accusations of misconduct against women have been relatively rare.

Germany and most European countries protect the identities of accused people in legal proceedings, making it more difficult for the media to report about cases of harassment.

Courts have often been unsympathetic. In 2019, a French court ordered the leader of the country’s equivalent to the #MeToo movement to pay damages to a former television executive she had accused of making salacious and humiliating advances to her.

With a print circulation of 1.2 million, Bild is Europe’s largest newspaper, but like most publications has suffered steep declines in print readership. In 2011, daily print sales averaged 2.8 million, according to the newspaper’s website, and that was down from 4 million in 1965.

opinion pieces. He had lately railed against what he said was the German government’s mismanagement of the pandemic crisis. He complained earlier this month that the authorities fined joggers for not wearing masks while federal and state governments bungled the rollout of vaccines.

Axel Springer, Bild’s parent company, is one of Europe’s most prominent media firms. Springer also owns Welt, a German daily newspaper; the online news site Business Insider; and Politico Europe. KKR, the private equity firm, owns 36 percent of Springer shares and holds three seats on the company’s nine-person supervisory board. Friede Springer, widow of founder Axel Springer, remains a major shareholder and a member of the board.

Springer said in a statement on Saturday that the investigation involving Mr. Reichelt would include “an evaluation of the credibility and integrity of all parties involved.”

The publisher added: “Prejudgments based on rumors are unacceptable for the Axel Springer corporate culture.”

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