BERLIN—German publisher Axel Springer SE on Monday said it had replaced the editor in chief of its Bild tabloid, Europe’s largest-circulation newspaper, over allegations that the man had intimate relations with junior employees even after the completion of an internal investigation into his behavior.
The move comes days before Axel Springer’s $1 billion takeover of Washington, D.C.-based digital publisher Politico, the latest step in its ambitious U.S. expansion plan, is set to be completed.
The German conglomerate, which has more than 1,600 employees across 40 countries, announced the decision to replace Bild editor
who also oversaw the new Bild TV television channel, in a press release late on Monday.
Mr. Reichelt has failed to “clearly separate private and professional affairs and told the executive board untruths about it,” the company said in a statement. There was never any substantiated allegation of sexual harassment or abuse of power against Mr. Reichelt, the statement said, adding that the journalist had pursued consensual relations with women working under him.
Mr. Reichelt didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Reichelt, a former war reporter, was the subject of a compliance probe earlier this year following reports in local media that he had abused his position to enter intimate relations with young female employees.
The independent investigation conducted by the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer found that while Mr. Reichelt had engaged in relationships with female subordinates, there was no evidence he had abused his power while doing so, according to an Axel Springer spokesman.
Mr. Reichelt remained in his position after the investigation closed but had to share his responsibilities with a female co-chief.
On Monday, however, the company said that inquiries from German and U.S. media revealed that Mr. Reichelt had continued an intimate relationship with a female employee even after the original investigation. Mr. Reichelt had been relieved of all his duties and wouldn’t be given another role at the company, a spokesman said, adding that the formal termination of his employment was still being negotiated, according to a spokesman. Mr. Reichelt had been in his position since 2017.
As a result, he was relieved of his duties as chief editor with immediate effect. The latest allegations were first revealed by the New York Times on Sunday, which reported on a continuing investigation by German media outlet Ippen that hasn’t been published.
A senior Ippen editor declined to comment on the investigation, beyond saying that it could be published in the coming days.
A spokesman for Axel Springer said the timing of the dismissal wasn’t linked to the imminent completion of the Politico deal. Like most German companies, Springer had no rules regulating intimate relations between employees but began drafting such rules after the internal investigation into Mr. Reichelt.
“Julan Reichelt developed Bild excellently…we would have liked to continue the process of cultural renewal at Bild that was set by the newsroom and the publisher together with Julian Reichelt, but this will no longer be possible,”
Axel Springer’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Mr. Reichelt will be replaced by Johannes Boie, currently editor of Springer’s Welt on Sunday weekly.
Messrs. Döpfner and Boie will appear in the Bild newsroom on Tuesday to brief the staff about the changes and answer any questions, the spokesman said.
Write to Bojan Pancevski at [email protected]
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Appeared in the October 19, 2021, print edition as ‘Springer Forces Out Bild Editor.’