September 29, 2015 Last Updated 12:54 pm

Axel Springer acquires majority stake Business Insider in $343M deal, Jeff Bezos holds on to 3%

Morning Brief: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos retains a 3 percent stake in the financial website founded by former (now banned) securities trader Henry Blodget

The German publisher Axel Springer, as rumored, has acquired a majority interest in Business Insider. The publisher will pay $343 million to acquire 88 percent of the media outlet founded by Henry Blodget. Axel Springer previously owned a 9 percent stake.

BI-flagAmazon CEO Jeff Bezos will retain a minority stake in Business Insider, owning the other 3 percent of the company.

The acquisition by Axel Springer brings the total valuation of the business news outlet to about $442 million.

“With the acquisition of Business Insider, we continue with our strategy to expand Axel Springer’s digital reach and, as previously announced, invest in digital journalism companies in English-speaking regions of the world,” said Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer.

“We have tremendous respect for Axel Springer’s commitment to independent journalism and its global vision for the future,” Blodget said in the announcement. “It is a pleasure and privilege to join forces with such a smart, forward-thinking team.”

Blodget will remain as editor of the site, known for its combination of financial reporting and sensational tech reporting (Apple is doomed, doomed I tell you). Business Insider currently has a staff of more than 325, according the acquisition announcement.

In 2003, Blodget was charged with civil securities fraud by the SEC and later agreed to a permanent ban from the industry. In 2007, Blodget, along with Kevin Ryan and Dwight Merriman, founded Business Insider, the media business not being one that requires either accuracy nor ethics. Ryan and Merriman helped found Business Insider after founding and managing DoubleClick. (DoubleClick was sold in 2005 for $1.1 billion to Hellman and Friedman, and two years later to Google.)

Axel Springer was thought to be interested in acquiring the Financial Times Group from education publisher Pearson. But FT was eventually sold to the Japanese media group Nikkei for £844 million.

In May of this year, Axel Springer invested $12 million in Chicago-based digital circular company Retale.

Virgin Media today announced the launch of a 200Mbps broadband service called Vivid. The company said it is the third time the company has boosted customer broadband speeds, going from 50Mbps in 2010 to today’s faster service.

The company currently offers UK customer three speed levels, 50Mbps, 100Mbps and 152Mbps, which will now be increased to 70Mbps, 150Mbps and 200Mbps on October 1.

Like in the US, UK providers are moving towards offering its customers bundled packages of Internet, land-line and television services.

Nate at The Digital Reader picks up the news, missed last week by TNM, that the Toronto Sun last week became the latest media website to drop reader comments.

CommentsClosed-featureIn an online note to readers, James Wallace, VP, Editorial, said “the increasing use of Sun comment boards for anonymous, negative, even malicious personal attacks, albeit by a minority, has led us to conclude our current commenting system is not serving the interests of the majority of our readers.”

The self-appointed Internet police will, of course, be upset with the decision. But the problem of online comments is a serious one, and editors cannot be blamed if they feel the best way to end the trolling of comment threads is through ending the practice altogether.

It is likely, that given more resources for comment moderating, most editors would keep open their comment threads. But in the real world, where newsrooms are getting smaller, it is a difficult decision to dedicate staff to comment moderating.

From a strictly business perspective, those comment trolls benefit media outlets initially by driving traffic. The question is whether rude commenting also drives readers away. Many editors think so.

My own preference would be to keep comment threads open, so I am not defending the decision to close them, just sympathetic to the decision others make to do so. I read The Washington Post less these days because of their inane comment threads, but realize that the NYT’s more moderated threads feel to me to be more uniform in opinion – is this a more accurate reflection of NYT readers or are voices being moderated out?

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