Gruner + Jahr is no longer drawn to Hafencity

Completely surprisingly, Gruner + Jahr withdraws from the long-planned new building project in Hamburg’s HafenCity. The Hanseatic city remains home to the media group. The step has nothing to do with the talks about a merger with RTL, it is said.

After more than 20 years, the Hamburg Hafencity is still busy building.  Unexpectedly, the Gruner + Jahr publishing group rejects a move to the neighborhood.

Dhe publishing group Gruner + Jahr surprisingly withdraws from the new building project in Hamburg’s Hafencity, to which the media company wanted to move. The construction project is more than three years behind schedule, said Gruner + Jahr managing director Oliver Radtke on Thursday in Hamburg. “We can’t and don’t want to wait here any longer.”

Against the background of a planned merger of the Hamburg media group with the television broadcaster RTL, the announcement at an employee meeting raised concerns that the decision might have something to do with the merger that Bertelsmann is considering.

Radtke emphatically contradicted this. “Hamburg is and will remain a good city for Gruner + Jahr,” he said. Since the company will be leaving its old location in Hamburg’s Baumall, “we are looking for suitable, contemporary spaces for us together with the city”. Gruner + Jahr is confident of finding another suitable property in the Hanseatic city. The media company with around 2500 employees is one of the most important employers in Hamburg.

Verlag wants to stay in the Hanseatic city

When asked by the FAZ, Radke said, “we are staying in Hamburg”. The decision against the new building has nothing to do with the RTL project. Bertelsmann CEO Thomas Rabe, who also heads the RTL Group in Luxembourg at the same time, announced during the presentation of the annual balance sheet for 2020 that in the course of the summer, Bertelsmann would like to decide “what and what for the two houses then together the best solution and the best setup is ”. Implementation should then begin in the fourth quarter.

The closer cooperation could go up to a merger. After Julia Jäkel’s retirement, Stephan Schäfer became the managing director of content and brands at Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, and he has also been the new CEO of Gruner + Jahr; he has been a member of the management team since 2013. As COO, Radtke is responsible for the operational business. Both are seen as the driving force behind the merger.

Bertelsmann increases sales

The RTL Group benefited from the booming streaming market in the first three months of this year and thus cushioned the corona-related decline in TV advertising revenues in the first quarter. At Bertelsmann, as the majority owner of the group, strong growth was also noticeable in the book and music markets as well as in the service sector. On its own, the group increased total sales by around 10 percent compared to the first quarter of 2020 and by seven percent compared to the pre-Corona year 2019, as the company announced on Thursday in Gütersloh. The proceeds were more than 4.2 billion euros.

In its media business, Bertelsmann sees itself in ever more intense competition with global Internet platforms such as Netflix, Google and Amazon. For some time now, CEO Rabe has been focusing on dovetailing the content businesses in the Bertelsmann Group more closely.