Mathias Döpfner asked Adidas to pay rent without revealing he was his landlord

The head of a German media conglomerate took to his tabloids to slam Adidas for failing to pay rent during the pandemic – without telling readers he was one of the sporting goods giant’s owners, according to a report .

Mathias Döpfner is the CEO of Axel Springer, a Berlin-based company that owns Politico, Insider and the German tabloid Bild, among others.

According to the Financial Times, Bild published more than 20 articles criticizing Adidas for not paying rent during the pandemic-induced shutdowns in Germany.

Adidas was not the only major retailer to announce a rent freeze. Other companies, including H&M, Puma and Ceconomy, also refused to pay rent, but Bild devoted disproportionate coverage to Adidas, according to the report.

Public opinion turned against Adidas to the point that politicians called for a boycott. A member of the German Bundestag has posted a video on social media showing him setting fire to an Adidas shirt.

Döpfner is CEO of Axel Springer, the German conglomerate whose holdings include US news sites like Insider and Politico.
photo alliance via Getty Image

But Bild did not disclose that Adidas was a tenant leasing space from the tabloid’s parent company CEO Döpfner.

Döpfner, who caused a stir in the US after it was recently revealed he emailed colleagues ‘praying’ for Donald Trump’s re-election, is co-owner of Münzstrasse, a historic building in Berlin , according to information cited by FT .

Adidas is renting two-story space in the building where it operates a storefront, the FT reported.

When Adidas informed its landlord that it would not pay rent, Döpfner was furious, according to FT.

Döpfner then allegedly ordered Bild’s editor-in-chief at the time, Julian Reichelt, to lead a campaign against Adidas.

The aim of the editorial campaign was to stir up outrage against a multibillion-dollar brand that refused to pay rent, but the newspaper never revealed to readers that the source of its story was Döpfner himself, reported the FT.

Adidas Store
German tabloid Bild reportedly sparked public outrage at Adidas for failing to pay rent during the pandemic.
Future Publishing via Getty Imag

Bild has published articles accusing Adidas of “breaking a taboo” and behaving “ruthlessly” while tarnishing the legacy of its founder, German entrepreneur Adi Dassler.

Adidas CEO Kasper Rørsted has been described by Bild as a greedy capitalist, according to FT.

A spokesperson for Axel Springer told the Post, “The allegations are complete nonsense.”

“It would have been a scandal if Mathias Döpfner, seeing the overriding public interest of the subject, had withheld this information,” a company representative told The Post.

“We are proud to have a CEO who understands journalism.”

Axel Springer told FT that the idea there was a conflict of interest was “absurd” and that Döpfner passed the information on to Bild because he “immediately knew it was a matter of overriding public interest”.

Adidas Store
Adidas, like almost all retailers, suffered substantial losses during the pandemic-induced shutdowns.
SOPA/LightRocket images via Gett

“It’s the job of an editor. From today’s perspective, it would and will do exactly the same,” the company told FT.

The Post has sought comment from Adidas.

Adidas, like most other retailers, suffered substantial losses during the pandemic as governments imposed lockdowns in an effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Last year, Axel Springer ousted Reichelt as editor at Bild after The New York Times reported he had an affair with a subordinate whom he later promoted to a senior position.


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