Matriarch Foils Leo Kirch, Tightens Grip on Axel Springer

10 October 2002

Friede Springer, already the largest shareholder in Axel Springer Verlag and widow of its eponymous founder Axel Cäsar Springer, has seized outright control of Europe’s largest newspaper publishing group following a stunning strategic coup.

Within hours of the forclosure by Deutsche Bank of Leo Kirch's 40.3% holding in Springer on grounds of loan default [WAMN: 09-Oct-02], Mrs Springer bought a 10.4% stake from the bank thereby upping her present indirect holding of 45% to an impregnable 55.4%.

The coup, which sees off all possibility of a hostile takeover, suits both parties admirably, allowing Deutsche Bank to sell its remaining 29.9% share tranche without activating the mandatory requirement to mount a full takeover bid had its stake exceeded 30%.

Prior to his recent enforced retirement, fallen media magnate Leo Kirch, whose stake in the publisher entitled him to a seat on the its supervisory board, had tried every which way to build a majority holding in the Springer empire.

But Mrs Springer has not only sent all outside predators slinking, tail between legs. Her triumph also puts her late husband’s two grandchildren firmly in their place. Axel-Sven and Ariane Springer, who between them command 5% of the group, have been at odds with the formidable matriarch and there were concerns that they might join with Leo Kirch in a bid to seize control.

But for an inconvenient anachronism, the Springer Saga would have inspired Wagner to even greater heights of gothic musical genius.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff