A media company run by former Mirror Group chief executive David Montgomery has snapped up Berlin’s biggest-selling broadsheet newspaper.
Mecom, together with Anglo American private equity group Veronis Suhler Stevenson, has bought the Berliner Zeitung, whose circulation is 185,000, as well as Berlin’s top tabloid paper, Berliner Kurier, whose circulation is 121,000.
Talks with the owner have been dogged by protests from staff at the titles and by last Friday’s decision by venture capital firm 3i to pull out having initially agreed to back the purchase. The controversial deal is made all the more sensitive because it is the first time that a foreign-owned group has bought a German newspaper.
To gain control of the two newspapers, Mecom has bought Berliner Verlag, a subsidiary of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, in a deal analysts estimated to be worth around €160m (£105m). Mecom will own almost 15 per cent. Ownership of the company also gives the purchasers control of a weekly advertising freesheet called Adendblatt with a circulation of 1.4m, a second freesheet in Warnow as well as TIP, a bi-weekly Berlin entertainment guide, and a printing plant which also prints the Financial Times Deutschland.
Montgomery caused waves by cost cutting at The Independent when the Mirror Group became joint owners in the 1990s. He tried to allay staff fears that quality could suffer. He said: “We will be proud custodians of the titles within Berliner Verlag, committed to the highest journalistic standards. We have the highest regard for the German newspaper industry. Berliner Verlag is an excellent company.