Scandal hits German media giant Axel Springer

German media giant Axel Springer SE has suspended the editor-in-chief of Europes highest-selling tabloid, Bild, after articles in the New York Times and Der Spiegel revealed unknown details of a compliance investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct and bullying, The Guardian reported.

Axel Springer, a media empire built on digging up stories of sex and sleaze among the rich and famous, should have turned a blind eye to sex and sleaze within its own offices will hardly have come as a shock to its readers, the report said.

A chauvinistic “Wolf of Wall Street” office culture at its flagship title Bild has always been plain to see, say former staff members at the German media giant, named after its five-times-married founder who died in 1985.

What has surprised many in Germany this week, however, is that the most powerful media publisher operating in Europe got caught out trying to draw a veil over such goings-on, just as it embarks on an ambitious plan of global expansion, the Guardian report said.

New information “obtained over the last few days”, the company said in a statement, had shown that editor Julian Reichelt had “failed to maintain a clear boundary between private and professional matters” and been “untruthful to the executive board.”

In fact, the article published in The New York Times had mainly cited testimonies given to investigators from a law firm that Axel Springer itself had commissioned after complaints from half a dozen female staff members, the report said.

They alleged that Bild’s editor promoted a female trainee eleven years his junior to a high-level newsroom job, that she herself felt she wasn’t ready for, while having an affair with her.

According to a follow-up article in Der Spiegel, the woman felt professionally beholden to Reichelt and later sought psychiatric care.

This case is alleged to be part of a wider pattern whereby Reichelt maintained consensual sexual relations with at least four young women, whom he singled out for praise and prematurely elevated to important roles before dropping them, the report added.