Axel Springer chief Matthias Duepfner used newspaper Bild to campaign against adidas to stop paying rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Financial Times reports. Bild, which has criticized Adidas’ decision, did not disclose Dobfner’s ownership of the property leased by Adidas.
In March and April 2020, the Axel Springer newspaper Bild published more than 20 articles criticizing Adidas for its planned rent freeze during the first shutdown. Other companies planning the same move, including H&M, Ceconomy, Deichmann and Puma, have received far less attention.
The report sparked outrage in Germany, but Bild never revealed that the company’s CEO was the source, at the same time directly hit by Adidas’ decision as co-owner of a historic building in the historic center of Berlin where Adidas leased two floors for its store.
command to editor
When Dobfner was informed of Adidas’ decision to freeze the rent, he was “furious,” according to people familiar with the case, and called then-Bild editor Julian Reichelt, noting that the paper should campaign against Adidas because it was “too profitable.” . “The company and its failure to pay it violates the basic principles of the free economy” – reports the “Financial Times”.
A few hours later, Build reported a rental freeze by Adidas. In the following days, the newspaper published a series of articles accusing the clothing brand of “taboo-breaking”, “cruel” behavior and betraying the legacy of the legendary founder of the brand, Adi Dassler. The Financial Times writes that Adidas president Kasper Rorsted has been described in articles and published opinions as a “greedy capitalist who lacks personality and undermines basic principles of social trust.”
As a result of the Belda campaign, Adidas agents and politicians threatened a boycott, and German Labor Minister Hubertus Heil suggested that Adidas could be sued. Florian Post, a Social Democrat MP at the time, torched an Adidas shirt and posted the video to Twitter saying he would “never wear brand clothing again.”
Adidas eventually reversed its decision and bought full-page ads in German newspapers, including Bilda, to apologize for its “mistake”.
In a statement to the Financial Times, Axel Springer denied there was a conflict of interest in the case. According to the publisher, Doepfner passed the information on to “Bild” because he “immediately knew it was in the public interest” that should have been disclosed. Doepfner was supposed to “obviously” disclose his personal interest to Reichelt, but “it would be wholly unwise to reveal the source” in print, incl. Because the articles “were not about a single point of sale in Berlin,” but about thousands of Adidas stores around the world, according to a Financial Times report.
Doepfner resigned in 2022 as the company’s president after accusations of concealing Reichelt’s behavior for many years, accusing, among other things, of sexual harassment. Reichelt was released in October.
Adidas declined to comment on the matter.
mly / PAP
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