Reporters protest after newspaper kills story on abuse allegations against competitor

Julian Reichelt, the chief editor of Germany’s most popular newspaper, was removed from his position Monday after bombshell misconduct allegations, the publishing company Axel Springer SE said.

Reichelt, 41, was fired from the Bild tabloid after it was revealed that journalists at a competing media group in Germany were investigating Reichelt based on allegations against him, but their company, Ippen media group, prevented them from doing so, the Associated Press reported.

In a Friday letter, four senior reporters at Ippen said their publisher, Dirk Ippen, had committed a “breach of trust” for stonewalling their report, which was supposed to be released Sunday.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Julian Reichelt was fired as chief editor of the Bild tabloid after it was revealed that journalists at a competing media group in Germany were investigating Reichelt based on allegations against him, but their company, Ippen media group, prevented them from doing so. Above, the headquarters of Axel Springer AG, the publisher of Germany’s biggest newspaper BILD, in Berlin on March 11, 2009.
Franka Bruns, File/AP Photo

The Ippen media group said it had nixed the story to “avoid the impression we might want to economically harm a competitor.” It denied that there had been any pressure from Axel Springer executives over the matter.

Axel Springer said it had gained new information about Reichelt’s current behavior “as a result of press reports” that it had followed up on, revealing that he had failed to “clearly separate personal and private matters” even after being required to do so following the internal investigation.

Reichelt had also lied to the board about this, the company added.

Axel Springer said it would appoint Johannes Boie, 37, as the new chair of Bild’s three-member editorial board.

Reichelt, one of the mightiest figures in German media, was briefly suspended earlier this year amid an investigation into allegations that included bullying and abusing his position of power toward female staff. He was later reinstated after the company said his actions didn’t warrant dismissal.

While Ippen held back on its story, the New York Times published a report Sunday containing new details from the internal probe into Reichelt’s alleged affair with a trainee.

In its statement, Axel Springer said the internal investigation, which was handled by an independent law firm, never included allegations of sexual harassment or abuse against Reichelt, but rather centered around “consensual romantic relationships with Bild staffers and evidence of abuse of power in connection with this.”

At the time, the company said, a decision was made to give Reichelt a second chance.

“In the context of the latest media report, the company has obtained further indications of ongoing misconduct by Julian Reichelt,” it said. “That is why the board now considers it unavoidable to end [Reichelt’s] role.”

It separately announced legal steps against “third parties” for releasing confidential business information and private communication with the aim of trying to harm the company and having Reichelt removed.

Axel Springer has successfully expanded its business in the United States in recent years. It owns online media company Insider and the business-oriented Morning Brew, and in August it announced a deal to buy the U.S.-based political news company Politico and the tech news site Protocol.

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