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Mathias Döpfner

Mathias Döpfner

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Mathias Döpfner is Chief Executive Officer of German media group Axel Springer AG
Axel Springer AG
Axel Springer AG is one of the largest multimedia companies in Europe, with more than 11,500 employees and with annual revenues of about €2.9 billion. The Company is active in a total of 36 countries, including Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia and Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland...



Mathias Döpfner grew up in Offenbach am Main. His mother was a housewife and his father Dieter C. Döpfner was a university professor of Architecture and Director of the Offenbach College of Applied Arts from 1966 to 1970.

Mathias Döpfner and his wife Ulrike, née Weiß – the daughter of Ulrich Weiß, a former management board member of Deutsche Bank AG – live at Heiligen See in Potsdam
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....

 and have three sons.

Education and first professional positions

Mathias Döpfner studied musicology, German literature and theater science in Frankfurt and Boston. He began his career in 1982 as the music critic of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , short F.A.Z., also known as the FAZ, is a national German newspaper, founded in 1949. It is published daily in Frankfurt am Main. The Sunday edition is the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung .F.A.Z...

 supplement. After working as the FAZ correspondent in Brussels and as manager of a subsidiary of the Winderstein concert agency, Döpfner moved to Gruner + Jahr
Gruner + Jahr
Gruner + Jahr GmbH & Co. KG is the largest European printing and publishing firm. Its headquarters is in Hamburg, Germany.-History:Originally founded on August 1, 1948 as the Henri Nannen publishing house, Gruner + Jahr was created in 1965 from a merger by acquisition, by publishers John Jahr Sr....

 in 1992 – initially employed by board member Axel Ganz in Paris, later as assistant to the CEO Gerd Schulte-Hillen.

In April 1994, Döpfner became editor-in-chief of the Berlin weekly newspaper Wochenpost. In 1996 he took over the post of editor-in-chief of the Hamburg tabloid Hamburger Morgenpost
Hamburger Morgenpost
Hamburger Morgenpost is a daily German newspaper, published in Hamburg in tabloid format.The Hamburger Morgenpost is the second largest newspaper in Hamburg.- History :...


Axel Springer AG

In March 1998 he became editor-in-chief of Axel Springer AG
Axel Springer AG
Axel Springer AG is one of the largest multimedia companies in Europe, with more than 11,500 employees and with annual revenues of about €2.9 billion. The Company is active in a total of 36 countries, including Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Russia and Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland...

's national daily newspaper Die Welt
Die Welt
Die Welt is a German national daily newspaper published by the Axel Springer AG company.It was founded in Hamburg in 1946 by the British occupying forces, aiming to provide a "quality newspaper" modelled on The Times...

. Under his leadership, the content and visual appearance of the paper was fundamentally revised. On February 26, 2008, Axel Springer announced that the Welt Group had generated a profit for the first time.

Döpfner has been a member of the management board of Axel Springer AG since July 2000. From October 2000 he has additionally been head of the newspapers division; from January 1, 2002, CEO and head of the newspapers division. Prior to this, Claus Larass, a strong competitor for the position, had left the company. Since the beginning of 2008 his executive division has been entitled "Subscription Paper Division and International Divisions".

Mathias Döpfner took over the leadership of Axel Springer AG during an economically difficult time. After the company made 98 million Euros less profit in the boom year of 2000 than the previous year, it had to cope with a loss of 198 million Euros for the first time in its history in the 2001 financial year. These negative results were caused above all by the high costs of restructuring measures.

Döpfner surprised his critics with a far-reaching and successful synergy program. At the same time Springer sold loss-making subsidiaries and focused on its core business. The merger of the editorial offices of Die Welt and Berliner Morgenpost promoted by Döpfner was controversial. In the meantime this cooperation model has been copied throughout Germany by publishing houses such as WAZ
The WAZ-Mediengruppe is Germany's third largest newspaper and magazine publisher with a total of over 500 publications in eight countries. WAZ-Mediengruppe is privately held by the founders' families and is headquartered in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia.The group's largest paper is Westdeutsche...

, Gruner + Jahr and Madsack.

He led the publisher back into the profit zone from 2002 with these measures and has continually increased the company's profitability in subsequent years. In the 2008 fiscal year, the fifth consecutive record operating result achieved an EBITDA yield of 17.8 percent. Even in the crisis year 2009, the yield remained a high 12.8 percent. In the first half of 2010, the margin was as high as 19.1 percent.

In 2002 Döpfner demanded the redemption of a put option of Springer shares in the Leo Kirch
Leo Kirch
Leo Kirch was a German media entrepreneur who founded the Kirch Group.-Life:Kirch was born in Volkach, Bavaria, but shortly afterward his family moved to the nearby town of Würzburg. After completing High school he studied marketing and management as well as mathematics at the University of...

 company ProSieben/Sat1. The Munich film distributor was not able to muster the 770 million Euros due however – the beginning of the end of the KirchMedia media empire which declared itself bankrupt in April 2002. At that time, the Springer partner Leo Kirch held 40 percent of the Springer publishing house.

In August 2004, pressure from Döpfner ensured that the publisher's titles were changed back to the traditional orthography. He was then chosen by readers of the German language newspaper Deutsche Sprachwelt as the "Language Defender of 2004". Axel Springer AG has in the meantime made a U-turn with regard to the new German spelling rules.

The takeover of the ProSiebenSat.1 media company – ultimately failing due to a prohibition by the Federal Cartel Authority – was arranged under Döpfner's aegis in August 2005.

Döpfner is considered to be a close confidant of the majority shareholder of the Springer group and widow of the group's founder, Axel Springer, Friede Springer
Friede Springer
Friede Springer is a German publisher and widow of Axel Springer....

, the godmother of his second son. In July 2006 he bought a 2 per cent stake in Springer AG from her for 52.360.000 Euros. Döpfner received the 680,000 shares at a preferential price of 77 Euros each, almost 27 percent cheaper than the value of the shares on the stock exchange at that time (104.50 Euros), although he had to pay tax on the difference.

In June 2007, Axel Springer AG acquired a majority stake in the PIN Group AG postal service company, in which the company had been involved since 2004, along with the other founding partners Holtzbrinck, WAZ and Rosalia. Through the introduction of a statutory minimum wage – which was subsequently declared unlawful by the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg on December 18, 2008 – the decisive competitive advantage of the private postal service was brought to an end. Participation in the PIN Group AG became a bad investment. In December 2007, Axel Springer AG wrote off its participation and withdrew from the postal business. Döpfner learnt a lesson for the company: "Future growth lies in digitization and in foreign business".

The digitization strategy pursued by Mathias Döpfner at Axel Springer, is based on the one hand on the expansion of market-leading content portals where Axel Springer is successful, in particular with BILD.de and the European women's portal auFeminin. In addition, the traditional core competence of the newspaper publishers in classified ads will be extended to digital channels. Axel Springer is well positioned here with the European job portal Stepstone, the real estate portal Immonet and the price-comparison marketplace Idealo. The third pillar is performance-based marketing. Through its participation in Zanox AG and the subsequent acquisition of Digital Window and Buy.at, Axel Springer has built up the European market leader in this segment within three years. About 25 percent of revenues are currently generated online. The Digital Media segment has become the second largest in the media company after the national newspaper business since the first quarter of 2010.

One of Döpfner's main theses is that the publishers' business model, to gather information that has been prepared and selected by professionals under a strong brand; and to offer advertisers creative marketing solutions regardless of whether the distribution channel is print, online or mobile, remains attractive. As one of the first European media CEOs, he has called for a paradigm shift with regard to paid content in digital distribution channels and pushed this forward with numerous offerings – especially for smartphones and tablets.

More than 25 percent of revenues in the 2009 fiscal year came from abroad. An important step towards the internationalization of Axel Springer's business came with the establishment of an Eastern European joint venture with Ringier AG, which trades under the name of Ringier Axel Springer Media AG and publishes the market-leading tabloid newspapers in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia respectively.

With an annual salary of 11 million Euros in 2009, Döpfner was Germany's highest paid manager according to estimates by manager magazin. Axel Springer AG has described this estimate as totally wrong and irresponsible. The overall compensation published in the annual report includes payments for retired members of the board and gives no indication of the distribution among the four board members.

Journalistic and publishing activities

Mathias Döpfner regularly speaks out on media and socio-political, economic and cultural issues. Particular attention was given to his debate with Nobel laureate Günter Grass, documented by the SPIEGEL (19.6.2006). Döpfner surprised with the confession: "I am a non-Jewish Zionist". Alongside the threats from Islamic fundamentalism and America's image in Germany, the discussion also focused on the achievements and the failings of the 1968 movement. He was "ready to lead a self-critical review on behalf of the Axel Springer publishing house with regard to 1968". However, there also has to be an equally self-critical debate "on the substantive aberrations of the 1968 movement". In January 2010 Axel Springer AG put the Medienarchiv68 online, containing nearly 6000 articles, comments, letters, cartoons, news reports, commentaries and interviews from the Springer titles between 1966 and 1968. Döpfner recently published his opinion on the threat from Islamism in his WELT essay "The West and the mocking laughter of Islamism".

On 12.7.2009, ARD TV broadcast Döpfner's film "My friend George Weidenfeld". Döpfner sees the film portrait, in which he accompanies Lord Weidenfeld on his travels and at meetings and interviews prominent companions such as Daniel Barenboim, Helmut Kohl, Angela Merkel or Shimon Peres, as "a very subjective approach to a great European".

He has repeatedly commented on the subjects of freedom and digitization, particularly in the fall of 2010 as a visiting professor at the University of Cambridge. Under the title "Freedom and the Digital Revolution" Döpfner held three lectures in which he addressed the Germans' difficult relationship to freedom, the global erosion of freedom and its causes, and digitization as the fourth major cultural revolution and its impact on press freedom, privacy, and journalism.

Among his highly regarded media policy contributions are his keynote speech at the Medientagen München (Munich Media Days), in which he submitted concrete proposals for differentiating between private and public media in digital channels.


Döpfner has been the only European member of the Supervisory Board of the world's largest media company Time Warner
Time Warner
Time Warner is one of the world's largest media companies, headquartered in the Time Warner Center in New York City. Formerly two separate companies, Warner Communications, Inc...

 since July 2006.

He has also been a member of the Supervisory Board of RHJI
RHJ International
RHJ International is a holding company based in Belgium. The company, previously known as Ripplewood Holdings Japan, was a private equity fund run by Ripplewood Holdings prior to being listed on the Euronext. Timothy C. Collins, the founder of Ripplewood, is the company's largest shareholder and...

 since 2008. In July 2009, some media made a factual connection between Döpfner's commitment to the financial investors battling over Opel
Adam Opel AG, generally shortened to Opel, is a German automobile company founded by Adam Opel in 1862. Opel has been building automobiles since 1899, and became an Aktiengesellschaft in 1929...

 and the positive reporting of this issue in certain of the Springer group's media. Döpfner's personal connections to the RHJI were not addressed in the Springer group's media reports.

Private Engagement

In 2007, Döpfner bought Villa Schöningen
Villa Schöningen
Villa Schöningen is a historic residence in the Potsdam district of suburban Berlin, at Berliner Strasse 86, located at the corner of Berlin Street and Swan Avenue, just west of the Glienicke Bridge....

 which is situated right beside Glienicke Bridge with Leonhard Fischer, CEO of RHJI. On the eve of the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, a German-German Museum was opened there on 8 November 2009 by Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel
Angela Dorothea Merkel is the current Chancellor of Germany . Merkel, elected to the Bundestag from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, has been the chairwoman of the Christian Democratic Union since 2000, and chairwoman of the CDU-CSU parliamentary coalition from 2002 to 2005.From 2005 to 2009 she led a...

, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski and former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger
Heinz Alfred "Henry" Kissinger is a German-born American academic, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman. He is a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as National Security Advisor and later concurrently as Secretary of State in the administrations of Presidents Richard Nixon and...

. The privately funded project documents the events at the Bridge of Spies during the Cold War on the ground floor of the permanent exhibition. Temporary exhibitions of contemporary art are shown on the first floor. Döpfner said he wanted to use his philanthropic project to create a "peaceful place of freedom".


  • 2011: German Media Award: Media Person of the Year
  • 2010 Humanitas Visiting Professor in Media 2010 at University of Cambridge; Member of St. John’s College, Cambridge
  • 2008 Leadership Award, Global American Institute for Contemporary German Studies New York
  • 2007 Leo Baeck Medal of Leo Baeck Institute
    Leo Baeck Institute
    The Leo Baeck Institute-New York in Manhattan is a library, archive, and exhibition centre devoted to the study of the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry. The Institutes's offices and collections are housed in Center for Jewish History in New York City...

     New York
  • 2007 Honorary Order of the City of Berlin
    Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

  • 2000 Goldene Feder (Golden Pen) in the print section as editor-in-chief of Die Welt
    Die Welt
    Die Welt is a German national daily newspaper published by the Axel Springer AG company.It was founded in Hamburg in 1946 by the British occupying forces, aiming to provide a "quality newspaper" modelled on The Times...

  • 2000 Appointed Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum
  • 1992 Axel Springer Prize for Young Journalists


  • Mathias O. C. Döpfner, Thomas Garms: Neue Deutsche Welle. Kunst oder Mode? Frankfurt am Main; Berlin; Wien: Ullstein, 1984, ISBN 3-548-36505-1 (Ullstein-Buch, 36505; Populäre Kultur)
  • Mathias O. C. Döpfner, Thomas Garms: Erotik in der Musik. Frankfurt/Main; Berlin: Ullstein, 1986, 208 Seiten, ISBN 3-548-36517-5 (Ullstein-Buch, 36517; Populäre Kultur)
  • Mathias O. C. Döpfner: Musikkritik in Deutschland nach 1945. Inhaltliche und formale Tendenzen; eine kritische Analyse. At the same time: Dissertation, Universität Frankfurt (Main), 1990. Frankfurt am Main; Bern; New York; Paris: Lang, 1991, 334 Seiten, ISBN 3-631-43158-9 (Europäische Hochschulschriften, Reihe 36, Musikwissenschaft Band 59)
  • Brüssel. Das Insider-Lexikon. München: Beck, 1993, 156 Seiten, ISBN 3-406-37397-6 (Beck'sche Reihe; 1007)
  • Axel Springer. Neue Blicke auf den Verleger; eine Edition aktueller Autorenbeiträge und eigener Texte. Hrsg.: Mathias Döpfner. Hamburg: Springer, 2005, 256 Seiten, ISBN 3-9809879-9-X
  • Reform statt Subvention – Warum wir verlässliche gesetzliche Maßstäbe für Fusionsvorhaben und Schutz kreativer Leistungen brauchen, in: Krautscheid/Schwartmann (Hrsg.), Fesseln für die Vielfalt? Das Medienkonzentrationsrecht auf dem Prüfstand, C.F Müller Verlag, Heidelberg 2010
  • Die Verlage sind im digitalen Zeitalter stärker, als sie selbst denken. In: Hubert Burda, Mathias Döpfner, Bodo Hombach, Jürgen Rüttgers (Hrsg.): 2020 - Gedanken zur Zukunft des Internets. Klartext, Essen, 2010, S. 177-182. ISBN 978-3-8375-0376-0.

External links