BERLIN — German media heavyweight Bertelsmann AG announced Friday that Thomas Middelhoff, in charge of corporate development and multimedia, will replace Mark Woessner as chairman beginning next year.
For Bertelsmann, the generation change goes hand in hand with the company’s move into the information age.
Middelhoff, 44, clearly proved himself the right man for the job; he led the company in this direction in 1995 when he formed a European partnership with America Online Inc., which now has 600,000 subscribers in Europe. The company said Middelhoff is responsible for its activity on every level of the multimedia chain.
Under the direction of Woessner, who became chairman in 1983, Bertelsmann expanded beyond its traditional publishing and printing activities and made its mark as an international media player.
Today it comprises: Germany’s largest magazine publisher, Gruner and Jahr; BMG Entertainment, one of the world’s largest recording and entertainment groups; as well as television, a new media division, (including the AOL venture) and a huge printing division. Last year the company merged its TV arm, Ufa, with Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Telediffusion to form CLT-Ufa, Europe’s largest TV and radio broadcaster.
Woessner is required under company rules to step down when he turns 60 in October of 1998.