German publishing group Axel Springer announced an agreement to acquire Politico, the 15-year-old digital political news outlet, a deal sources told Variety was worth slightly more than $1 billion.
The price of the acquisition wasn’t disclosed. Politico’s owner, Robert Albritton, had been seeking $1 billion for the company, the New York Times reported earlier this month.
Axel Springer’s deal for Politico includes the remaining 50% share of the companies’ current joint venture Politico Europe, as well as the more recently launched tech news website Protocol. The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2021, subject to regulatory approval.
The sale of Politico comes less than a week after broadcast TV group Nexstar Media bought The Hill, a Politico competitor, for $130 million. Meanwhile, business publisher Forbes on Thursday announced plans to go public via a merger with Magnum Opus, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) sponsored by private investment firm L2 Capital, that would give the new entity an implied enterprise value of $630 million. BuzzFeed, Group Nine Media (whose investors include Axel Springer) and Redbox are among media and entertainment companies that recently have gone the SPAC route to public markets.
Under Axel Springer’s ownership, Allbritton will continue as publisher of Politico and Protocol. The editorial and management leadership teams of Politico in the U.S., Politico Europe and Protocol will remain in place and will continue to operate their publications separately from Axel Springer’s other U.S.-based brands, the German company said.
The deal augments Axel Springer’s U.S. footprint, which includes Business Insider (which it bought in 2015 in a deal valuing Insider at $442 million) and Morning Brew, a business-focused digital publication.
Axel Springer and Politico have been joint venture partners since 2014, when they launched Politico Europe. According to Axel Springer, Politico Europe has been profitable since 2019.
“Politico’s outstanding team has disrupted digital political journalism and set new standards. A true North Star,” Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner said in announcing the pact. “It will be a privilege and a special responsibility to help shape the future of this outstanding media company.”
Allbritton boasted that he and the team as Politico “have built what is without a doubt the most impressive and most enduring of the many experiments in new publications over the past generation.”
Allbritton cofounded Politico in 2006 with Jim VandeHei, who left in 2016 and went on to start rival digital publishing firm Axios. Earlier this year, Axel Springer also had separately been in talks to buy Axios, according to reports. In 2014, Allbritton sold his family’s TV station group to Sinclair Broadcast Group for $985 million.
Politico says it has 700 employees in North America, more than half of whom are in editorial roles, while Politico Europe employs almost 200 people. Earlier this year, Politico completed the acquisition of E&E News, a news outlet focused on energy and the environment.
Berlin-based Axel Springer, whose major brands include Bild and Welt, says it employs more than 16,000 people worldwide.