Transition to an International Media Company (1996-2006)

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Transition to an International Media Company (1996-2006)

Not only has Axel Springer transcended the boundaries of its core markets in Germany, placing emphasis on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. The advent of the multimedia age has prompted the company to explore new creative avenues. Axel Springer now operates various different services on the Internet. They include the online versions of newspapers such as BILD and DIE WELT, the periodicals AUTO BILD, MAXIM and YAM! and original online offerings such as the book portal Booxtra. Axel Springer is a force to be reckoned within the television industry and holds participating interests in various TV stations and a production company. In the sixth decade of its existence Axel Springer Verlag is transforming itself from a German print publisher to an international media company.


Launch of the women's magazine OLIVIA in Poland.

Purchase of the Spanish newspaper publisher Hobby Press S.A.

Launch of COMPUTER BILD editions in Poland and Spain as well as AUTO BILD in Switzerland and Austria.

Purchase of the publishing company Econ & List.

Launch of the Sunday paper EURO am SONNTAG.


Axel Springer buys the television production company Schwartzkopff tv. Acquisition of a majority holding in the Swiss publishing group HandelsZeitung.

Launch of the Internet bookshop Booxtra, 25 percent investment in Studio Hamburg.

Establishment of Metropol Film- und Fernsehgesellschaft in Berlin (Metropol Film) as a joint venture with Studio Hamburg.

Takeover of the Romanian periodicals publishing house LvB Invest International (now Axel Springer Editura SRL).

Launch of the women's magazine OLIVIA in Romania.

Launch of the magazine for computer games COMPUTER BILD SPIELE.


Establishment of the group of television companies ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG (11.5 percent share).

Integration of 15 youth and music magazines in Germany and other countries / establishment of Axel Springer Young Mediahouse GmbH, Munich (since July 2006: Axel Springer Mediahouse München).

Investment in the real estate portal

Launch of the youth magazine YAM!

Launch of the Swiss investor periodical STOCKS. Establishment of the Portuguese joint venture company Reviproc Lda. with SKD as a partner, and launch of AUTOFOCO.

Majority holding in the French publishing company Media Mag SA, Paris. Launch of the computer magazine PC TODAY in Spain and AUTO BILD in Portugal.

Establishment of the corporate venture capital company AS Venture.

Laying of the foundation stone for the new building in Berlin, on the site of the former printing works in Kochstrasse.

"Topping out" of the extension to the offset printing facility in Ahrensburg, and considerable investment in sophisticated technical equipment.


Start of comprehensive replacement investments in the gravure printing works in Ahrensburg.
After the takeover of the publisher Wilhelm Heyne, the book publishing companies are brought together to form the Ullstein Heyne List Group.

Establishment of AS Auto-Verlag, and takeover of all the title rights of az Auto Verlag and "Autotest & Tuning" Verlag. Launch of the magazine AUTO BILD MOTORSPORT.

Axel Springer Polska launches the monthly business magazine PROFIT and the weekly magazine NEWSWEEK Polska.

Axel Springer and T-Online establish a joint subsidiary AG.

Launch of the computer game magazine COMPUTER HOY JUEGOS in Spain.

Launch of the men's magazine MAXIM.

On 12 September 2001, immediately after the anti-American terrorist attacks of 11 September, Axel Springer includes a declaration of loyalty to the transatlantic alliance in its Corporate Principles.

The editorial departments and publishing houses of the newspapers BERLINER MORGENPOST and DIE WELT, published in Berlin, are merged. From now on the content is produced by a single editorial team headed by a joint chief editor. The two papers remain independent titles.


Start of AUTO BILD ALLES ALLRAD and AUTO BILD in Bulgaria.

As the central multimedia unit of Axel Springer, AS Interactive GmbH (formerly CompuTel GmbH) controls the activities of AS Content GmbH, CompuTel Telefoninformationsservice Ges.m.b.H., Vienna, AS Kontakt sp.zo.o., Warsaw, and Aktuell Pressefernsehen GmbH.

First issue of the special magazine TIER BILD. In typical BILD style it offers a wealth of news, entertainment and services on the subject of "animals".

AS France takes over the French licensed edition of MEN'S HEALTH. The French subsidiary of Axel Springer also launches the monthly women's magazine BIEN DANS MA VIE.

BILD - the newspaper with the widest circulation in Europe - celebrates its 50th anniversary on 24 June.
On 1 July the company celebrates the "topping out" of its new building in Kochstrasse, Berlin. From the beginning of 2004 the Axel Springer Passage, a complex of offices and service facilities, offers a gross floor area of 64,000 m² for its own use and for letting to outside firms.

Launch of STARFLASH, the monthly youth magazine, at Axel Springer Mediahouse München.

24 September 2002 - the first extraordinary shareholders' meeting of Axel Springer. The shares in Axel Springer AG (40 percent) previously held by the insolvent Kirch Group are sold by auction to Deutsche Bank. Friede Springer takes on 10.4 percent of the shares. With her majority holding in Axel Springer Publizistik GmbH & Co, Friede Springer now holds some 55.4 percent of the voting rights through ownership or allocation.

Axel Springer endows the "George H. W. Bush Fellowship". From the coming year this fellowship will enable American political experts to engage in research at the American Academy in Berlin.

First issue of the BILD der FRAU special "Wohnen & Gestalten".

Unveiling of a bronze plaque at the birthplace of HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT (An der Alster 61, building of the Volksfürsorge insurance group, Hamburg) in memory of Axel Springer, publisher and founder of the newspaper.

At the property advertisements of the newspapers and online portals of Axel Springer acquire a joint Internet address with the offers of the Association of German Estate Agents (Ring Deutscher Makler, RDM).

The radio and television magazine FUNK UHR celebrates its 50th anniversary.

The family magazine FAMILIE & CO. awards the "Golden Rocking-Horse" for the first time as a prize for the best toy.

BERLINER MORGENPOST and HAMBURGER ABENDBLATT are presented with the European Newspaper Award.

Axel Springer Mediahouse München publishes the German edition of the music magazine ROLLING STONE.

Dr. Leo Kirch resigns from the supervisory board as of midnight on 22 November 2002.

On 7 December 2002 Axel Springer Budapest, the Hungarian subsidiary, launches the new weekly magazine SZÍNES TV MÜSOR, "Colourful Television Magazine".

Axel Springer sheds its majority holding in the daily paper TIROLER TAGESZEITUNG, Innsbruck, as of the end of the year.


As part of its strategy for adjusting its portfolio, Axel Springer sells several subsidiaries and holdings with effect from 1 January 2003: the book division Ullstein Heyne List is taken on by the Random House publishing group which sells part of it (Ullstein, Propyläen) to Bonnier publishing group.

The online marketing firm Interactive Media CCSP AG is sold to T-Online International. The shares in the TV production companies Multimedia, Cinecentrum, Studio Berlin Metropol and Studio Hamburg Produktion für Film und Fernsehen pass to the co-shareholder Studio Hamburg.

To mark the 90th birthday of Ernst Cramer, Axel Springer's close friend of many years, Axel Springer endows the "Ernst Cramer Fellowship" enabling German journalists to work in Israel and Israeli journalists to work in Germany.

On 15 April the group's new corporate design is presented to the public. The company is now represented by the name of its founder and four coloured squares. On 16 April the shareholders' meeting resolves to change the company's name to Axel Springer AG.

At the end of April Axel Springer launches the lively, inexpensive women's title FRAU von HEUTE.

Europe's biggest weekly women's magazine BILD der FRAU celebrates its 20th anniversary. Andrea Zangemeister has been its chief editor for 20 years.

The successful European brand AUTO BILD is launched in Indonesia in May. An agreement was entered with the PT Gramedia Magazine Group for the licensed edition.

May sees the start of the property portal IMMONET together with the Association of German Estate Agents (RDM), with a central data base. This makes IMMONET Germany's biggest online portal for property available through RDM.

In July the share in the radio station HIT RADIO FFH in Hessen is increased from 12.5 percent to 15 percent, making Axel Springer the biggest individual shareholder.

August sees the publication of guidelines for journalism at Axel Springer. The purpose of these standards, agreed between chief editors and the management of the publishing house, is to ensure independent and critical journalism at Axel Springer.

From August the monthly magazine AUTOMOBIL TESTS, an offshoot of AUTOMOBIL, positions itself as the only consumer guide periodical in the automobile segment. Its key feature is the section "Guide of the Month".

With effect from 30 September, Axel Springer AG sells the publishing house Weltkunst Verlag GmbH, Munich, that has been part of the group since 1979. It is taken on by the investment company Arques Gruppe in Starnberg. This completes Axel Springer's withdrawal from the book segment.

Axel Springer’s international activities are extended: in September Axel Springer establishes Axel Springer Russia in Moscow as its fourth subsidiary in Eastern Europe. On September 18, Axel Springer Budapest launches the weekly women’s magazine FANNY, and September 25 sees the start of a further licensed edition of the successful brand AUTO BILD in the Ukraine.

JOLIE, the young monthly women’s magazine in a handy pocket size from Axel Springer Mediahouse München, is launched on September 30.

On October 8 Axel Springer Praha launches SVET POCÍTACU (“The World of Computers”) as its ninth title in the Czech Republic. The magazine is a further version of COMPUTER BILD.

The world’s 17th edition of AUTO BILD is launched in Macedonia on November 5.

Axel Springer Polska launches FAKT, a new daily newspaper, in Poland on October 22. Only two months after its launch, FAKT achieves market leadership among the daily papers. According to ZKDP, the official Polish organization for verifying media circulations, FAKT is selling an average of more than 500,000 copies in December 2003.

The shareholder structure of Axel Springer AG changes substantially in October/November: the American financial investment company Hellman & Friedman acquires 19.4 percent of the shares from Deutsche Bank. A further 10 percent are bought by Axel Springer AG under a voluntary public stock repurchase program. The company’s shareholder structure is now as follows: Axel Springer Gesellschaft für Publizistik (50% + 10 shares); Friede Springer (10%); Hellman & Friedman (19.4%); Axel Springer AG (10%); scattered holdings (10.6%).

On November 28 the women’s magazine LOOK! starts in Romania. The pocket-sized monthly title is published by RPG (Romanian Publishing Group), a joint venture of Axel Springer AG with the Swiss publishing group Edipresse and the Greek publishing house Liberis Publications.

AUDIO VIDEO FOTO BILD, a new magazine from the successful BILD family of brands, is launched on December 3. It covers all the topics connected with home electronics, especially hi-fi, home movies and digital photography.


During Axel Springer AG's New Year Reception on January 13, some 500 guests from the fields of politics, industry, culture and the media celebrate the opening of the new building in Berlin, completed after three years of construction work. Alongside the Axel Springer Passage, the event forum Ullstein-Halle as an addition to the company's two high-rise buildings and the imposing new main entrance in Axel-Springer-Strasse, the Axel Springer Building is now complete. The Axel Springer Passage, that is accessible to the public, has a website of its own (

With TV DIGITAL, Axel Springer publishes the first German TV magazine designed specially for digital television. It contains both analogue and digital TV programs. The title appears once a fortnight.

With retrospective effect as of January 1, Axel Springer acquires a 14.5 % holding in Westfalen-Blatt Zeitungsverlage GmbH in Bielefeld. Its most prominent title is WESTFALEN-BLATT, with 5 main titles and 25 regional editions.

The successful brand AUTO BILD launches further foreign editions in Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Slovakia and Thailand. These bring the total number of editions of the magazine worldwide up to 22.

Axel Springer launches FORBES RUSSIA, a Russian licensed edition of the American business magazine “Forbes”. The title presents a mixture of international and Russian topics.

A licensed edition of the youth magazine POPCORN is launched in Latvia.

Axel Springer increases its share in Hamburg 1, Hamburg's only local commercial TV station, to 30 percent.In 2005 the share was reduced to 27 percent.

In June, Axel Springer Russia launches RUSSKIJ NEWSWEEK, the first international news magazine to be published in Russian.

The monthly women's magazine ALLEGRA appears for the last time in July 2004.

Axel Springer AG is the first media company in the world to publish a sustainability report conforming to the guidelines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and meeting the GRI's comprehensive catalogue of “in accordance” criteria. The report is available in digital form ( Axel Springer has also adopted an International Social Policy on human rights, protection of children and young people, qualification of its workforce and achievement of a work/family balance.

Following successful testing of WELT KOMPAKT in Berlin and Frankfurt, the decision to launch the new quality newspaper nationwide is taken in September. It appears successively in other conurbations and major cities such as Munich, the Ruhr region, Cologne-Duselldorf, Mannheim-Ludwigshafen, Heidelberg and Hamburg. The up-to-the minute newsstand newspaper in handy tabloid format is only the third supra-regional daily newspaper to be founded in Germany in the past fifty years.

Axel Springer AG takes a 49.9 percent interest in the online job exchange StepStone Deutschland AG. By using a combination of print and online advertising, the two companies strengthen their position in the job market. Through its partnership with StepStone, Axel Springer AG, which is already successfully represented in the cross-media advertising business with Immonet (one of the leading real estate portals) and (one of the biggest second-hand car exchanges), strengthens its strategic involvement in another important classified advertising market.

As part of the insolvency plan proceedings for Taurus TV GmbH i. I., a compromise is reached between Axel Springer AG, Taurus TV GmbH i. I., KirchMedia GmbH & Co. KGaA i. I. and other parties: under this compromise Axel Springer AG waives its rights under the put option claim that is disputed between the parties concerned. In return, Axel Springer AG retains its indirect interest of 10.2 percent in ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG and increases it by 1.8 percent without any financial consideration. The publishing company receives a payment of € 60.275 million from Taurus TV GmbH i. I. In addition, the insolvency commissioner of KirchMedia GmbH & Co. KGaA i. I. recognizes a claim of € 325 million for Axel Springer AG. The claim will be taken into account in the further course of the insolvency proceedings.

In September Axel Springer launches a literary magazine, DER FREUND. Contributions to this magazine are written by contemporary international authors, architects and journalists. The editor is Christian Kracht, author of “Faserland” (1995). DER FREUND is published quarterly and is limited to 8 issues.

The successful brand AUTO BILD launches more foreign editions in Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Slovakia, Hungary and in Thailand.

In September COMPUTER BILD will appear on the market in Lithuania as well. The licensee is Veidas Periodical Publishing.

Axel Springer AG returns to traditional German spelling. BILD am SONNTAG leads the way on October 3. The daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and websites gradually follow. The publishing company thus implements its decision, announced on August 6, to cancel the spelling reform in its publications.

Axel Springer Budapest, the biggest publisher in Hungary, launches GLAMOUR, a women's magazine in pocket format.

Axel Springer and Holtzbrinck Verlag jointly acquire a majority interest in the postal service provider PIN AG. It is planned to expand the letter delivery business in major urban areas with the aid of the publisher's own logistics system.

In December 2004 the business magazine PROFIT published by Axel Springer Polska is renamed FORBES POLSKA. In addition to FORBES RUSSIA, this means that Axel Springer is now publishing a further licensed edition of the American business magazine “Forbes”.

Axel Springer expands its international presence with two more editions of COMPUTER BILD: In December 2004 Europe's biggest computer magazine appears in Macedonia and Italy. As well as in Germany, the magazine is also represented in Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic and Spain.

Together with the Holtzbrinck publishing group, Axel Springer takes on the majority of the shares in the private postal service company PIN AG. Using the publishers' own logistics system, regional subsidiaries start delivering mail in the densely populated regions of Cologne and Frankfurt. Preparations are being made to extend the mail delivery business in the big population centers. 


Hangzhou Publishing House is working on the publication of a licensed edition of AUTO BILD in 2005.

With effect from January 2005, Axel Springer sells JOURNAL für die FRAU to Hubert Burda Media.

The Axel Springer affiliate Finanzen Verlag (re-named Axel Springer Finanzen Verlag in May 2006) takes over the business magazine “€uro” from the Düsseldorf-based Handelsblatt GmbH. In January 2005 this magazine will be amalgamated with the magazine FINANZEN to form the new title €URO mit FINANZEN. The sale is subject to anti-trust approval.

February sees the start of the first licensed edition of the international design and style magazine Wallpaper* as WALLPAPER* RUSSIA in Moscow. The monthly title is published by Axel Springer Russia.

With AUDIO VIDEO FOTO HOY Axel Springer España launches the first licensed edition of AUDIO VIDEO FOTO BILD, Europe’s leading magazine for home electronics. This continues the internationalization of the COMPUTER BILD family.

The Arvato divisions of Bertelsmann, Gruner + Jahr and Axel Springer AG combine their German gravure printing works. The objective of the new gravure printing enterprise Prinovis is to secure and extend its printing activities in the long term against a background of fierce competition in the European illustration printing market. The joint venture with its headquarters in Hamburg employs a staff of over 4,300 at five plants (Ahrensburg, Darmstadt, Dresden, Itzehoe and Nuremberg). A further printing works in Liverpool will join the group in 2006.

A licensed edition of Axel Springer’s women’s magazine JOLIE is launched in Serbia and Montenegro.

In August 2005 Axel Springer AG announced that it intended to take over the majority of the shares in ProSiebenSat.1 Media AG from P7S1 Holding L.P. and thereby establish the television business as the second strategic pillar of the group. On 21 January 2006 the Commission for Determining the Concentration of Ownership in the Media (KEK) stated that it regarded a combination of the strong position of the ProSiebenSat.1 group in the commercial television sector with the outstanding position of Axel Springer AG in the daily press as constituting a dominating influence on public opinion. On 23 January the Federal Cartel Authority prohibited the takeover on the grounds that a merger of Germany’s biggest newspaper publishing house with the biggest television group would result in a market power that was not capable of approval under the antitrust laws. After careful consideration, Axel Springer AG and P7S1 Holding L.P. agreed on 1 February not to pursue the takeover plans any further. It was felt that the numerous financial and legal imponderables of possible legal action or an application for ministerial approval would involve unreasonable risks for all concerned.

COMPUTER BILD is now published in Romania too.

AUTO BILD is launched in Sweden, Lithuania and Azerbaijan, the 25th to 27th foreign editions.

AS Interactive GmbH (formerly CompuTel GmbH) coordinates the activities of AS Content GmbH, CompuTel Telefoninformationsservice Ges.m.b.H., Vienna, AS Kontakt sp.zo.o., Warsaw, and Aktuell Pressefernsehen GmbH. AS Interactive is sold in November 2005. At the same time asdirekt, the company providing customer services and advice, takes over the majority of the shares (90 percent) in AS Kontakt, Warsaw.