Powerful German newspaper ousts editor after NYT report on workplace behaviour

Bild dismissed Julian Reichelt after The New York Times reported on details of his relationship with a trainee. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Germany's most powerful newspaper removed its top editor Monday (Oct 18) after months of defending his sexual relationships with women in the workplace as the scandal began to envelop the paper's globally ambitious parent company, Axel Springer.

Bild, a centre-right tabloid that has fed popular anger at Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Covid-19 restrictions, dismissed the editor-in-chief, Julian Reichelt, after The New York Times reported on details of Reichelt's relationship with a trainee, who testified during an independent legal investigation that in 2018 he had summoned her to a hotel near the office for sex and asked her to keep a payment secret.

Hours after Reichelt was ousted, the news magazine Der Spiegel published allegations that Reichelt had abused his position to pursue relationships with several women on his staff.

In an inquiry this spring, Axel Springer said it had cleared Reichelt, who apologised at the time for unspecified "mistakes" and remained in his role. The company also said it had learned unspecified new information about Reichelt's conduct and that the editor had misled the company's board.

Reichelt took a leave of absence in March after Der Spiegel, a German newsmagazine, reported that Axel Springer was investigating allegations of abuse of power and complaints that he had relationships with female employees.

Twelve days later, he returned after the investigation, conducted with help from the Freshfields law firm, concluded that Reichelt had mixed his personal and professional lives but had not broken any laws. The investigation found no evidence of sexual harassment or coercion, Axel Springer said at the time.

Reichelt "made mistakes", Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Axel Springer, said in a statement in March. "However, having assessed everything that was revealed as part of the investigation process, we consider a parting of the ways to be inappropriate."

Reichelt was reinstated with a co-editor-in-chief, Alexandra Würzbach, editor of Bild's Sunday edition, who had taken over his duties in his absence.

In explaining its decision on Monday to remove Reichelt as editor, the publisher cited "revelations" about his behaviour that had "come to light in recent days, following media reports".

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