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Politico’s New Playbook

Mathias Döpfner, Axel Springer C.E.O.
Mathias Döpfner, Axel Springer C.E.O. Photo: Jörg Carstensen/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
October 26, 2022

Back in April, Axel Springer’s formidable chief executive Mathias Döpfner ventured to Washington for the annual White House Correspondents Dinner and a gauntlet of brunches, parties and meetings in an effort to familiarize himself with the insularity and narcissism of the American politico-media establishment. It was a heady time: Six months earlier, Döpfner had closed Axel’s $1 billion acquisition of Politico, the Beltway bible, giving his Berlin-based media conglomerate a strong foothold in D.C. and Brussels, and turbocharging his ambitions to turn Axel into the democratic world’s leading digital publisher. 

Döpfner had already spent years extending his company’s presence in the U.S. market. Axel, after all, had acquired millennial-friendly mediacos Insider (née Business Insider) and Morning Brew, and Döpfner sat on the board of Netflix. But Politico afforded exactly the sort of adult table seat to the inside game that makes media, despite its obvious challenges, such a tantalizing business.