Axel Springer boss Mathias Döpfner wants to give his office as President of the Federal Association of Digital Publishers and Newspaper Publishers (BDZV) to new hands ahead of schedule from autumn. The association announced this on Tuesday in Berlin. The 59-year-old was re-elected in autumn 2020 for a second term of four years.

In a letter to the state associations, Döpfner said: “I would like to hand over my office as President to new hands in an orderly manner, preferably also to new structures, starting in the fall.” Döpfner cited two points as justification. With growth in the USA and the purchase of the Politico media group, the largest in the company’s history, Axel Springer is in a crucial phase that requires more time and presence in America. “That’s why I will no longer be able to get involved with the association in the form and intensity that I believe is necessary for a president.”

Döpfner went on to write: “In order to better represent the interests of small and medium-sized, regional and local publishers, you need a person or constellation at the top who does not represent a large, international and very digital publishing house.” That has happened in the past repeatedly led to misunderstandings.

In the past few months, there had been criticism of Springer boss Döpfner within the publishers’ association, some of which had also been voiced publicly by media companies. There was resentment and even calls for his resignation.

The whole thing was triggered by an article in the New York Times newspaper last fall. The report dealt with allegations of abuse of power against the then “Bild” editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt, who ultimately had to leave the Springer group.

The US newspaper also quoted from a private short message from Döpfner to the writer Benjamin von Stuckrad-Barre. In it, the Springer boss described Reichelt as the last and only journalist in Germany who was still bravely rebelling against the “new GDR authoritarian state”. Almost everyone else had become “propaganda assistants”. Springer classified the short message as ironic.

After that, newspaper publishers accepted an apology from Döpfner for the controversial message at a BDZV presidium meeting. Since then, rumblings have continued in the association, which is currently working on reforming its association structure.