Funke media group

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Funke Mediengruppe GmbH & Co. KGaA

legal form GmbH & Co. KGaA
Seat Essen , GermanyGermanyGermany 
management Ove Saffe, Andreas Schoo, Michael Wüller (Management)
Julia Becker (Chairman of the Supervisory Board)
Number of employees 6000 (2014)
sales 1.220 billion euros (2018)
Branch Mass media

Logo of the former WAZ media group

The Funke Mediengruppe , based in Essen, is a media group in the legal form of a GmbH & Co. KGaA with holdings in printed and electronic media in Germany , Austria and Croatia . The company publishes daily newspapers, general-interest and specialist magazines, advertising papers and customer magazines and has several large printing plants for their production. It also operates local radio stations and online services. The largest business area of ​​the group is regional reporting, in which different media are operated in parallel and in some cases linked in a region. The group specifies women's and TV guides as a second focus.

The Funke media group consists of a large number of nested companies in which the individual media and operational parts are managed independently in terms of formal law. The group as a whole generated sales of EUR 1.220 billion in 2018. In 2017, sales totaled 1.258 billion euros, of which 553.8 million euros came from daily newspapers, 373.9 million euros from magazines, 168.1 million euros from advertising papers, 67.5 million euros from all electronic ones Media, 22.4 million euros for the printing works and 72.0 million euros for other business areas. After a sharp decline in sales of 1.985 billion euros in 2002 by more than a third, the Funke media group is no longer one of the ten largest German media groups.

The group emerged from the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, founded in 1948 . After buying up other newspapers, the company operated as the WAZ newspaper group from 1976 , and as the WAZ media group from 1997 after further expansion into the electronic media . In 2013, following the departure of the Brost family, the group name was changed to the remaining Funke family .


Foundation and expansion as WAZ group

The founders of the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung were Erich Brost and Jakob Funke . Both owned 50 percent of the company shares. By buying up smaller competing titles in the original distribution area, the WAZ secured an economic monopoly in many cities in the Ruhr area as early as the 1970s . At the same time, the group largely maintained journalistic diversity through journalistically independent continuation of the purchased newspapers; a concept known as the "WAZ model" and emulated in many other regions.

The WAZ media group did not publish any business figures, but was considered one of the most profitable media companies in Germany with a return on sales of up to 30 percent. From the high profits in the core area, the company financed a large number of purchases of printed media as well as start-ups, especially in private broadcasting and online media. The expansion from a regional newspaper to a national and later international media group was led by the managing director duo Erich Schumann , authorized representative of the Brost side, and Günther Grotkamp , authorized representative of the Funke side, who had been in office for decades and was very well known in the media industry .

Change of ownership to the Funke Group

After the death of the two founders, the respective shares were divided between a number of heirs: Jakob Funke's shares were inherited by daughters Petra Grotkamp, ​​Gisela Holthoff, Renate Schubries and Ute de Graffenried in 1975. After daughter Ute paid off in 1989, the three remaining daughters each owned a third of the Funke family company . Gisela Holthoff's shares were inherited in 2011 by her adoptive son Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner , a well-known lawyer and entrepreneur who was spokesman for the Funke side for a long time. In 1995, 60 percent of Erich Brost's shares were inherited by his widow Anneliese Brost and 40 percent by long-term managing director Erich Schumann, who was adopted by Brost in 1985. After the deaths of Schumann (2007) and Anneliese Brost (2010), the shares in Brost Verwaltungs-GmbH were transferred to Erich Brost's three grandchildren.

50 percent of the company shares remained bundled in two management companies. Therefore, the family members could only act together and the two family groups could only decide by mutual agreement. Changes to this model were made difficult by the fact that a WAZ stake could not be sold to third parties without the consent of the co-owners, but only passed on to family members. Because simple majority decisions were not possible, differences of opinion both between and within the owner families resulted in protracted conflicts. Among other things, there was a dispute between the shareholders in 2006 over the distribution of the high proceeds of 520 million euros from the sale of the RTL stake.

With the aim of changing this constellation, Anneliese Brost had concluded secret contracts with Stephan Holthoff-Pförtner in 2008, which included, among other things, an option to purchase the Holthoff shares. Petra Grotkamp tried together with her husband, the long-time managing director Günther Grotkamp, ​​with legal means to prevent the division of the Funke family company. After Anneliese Brost's death, Petra Grotkamp submitted an offer to the Brost grandchildren, which they accepted with effect from December 31, 2011. Thereafter, Petra Grotkamp owned two thirds of the company shares. This ended after 63 years the division between two owner families. From March 2013, the media group used the name Funke Mediengruppe without separate notification . In June 2013, the group finally adopted a new legal form and now operates as Funke Mediengruppe GmbH & Co. KGaA .

At the end of 2017, Petra Grotkamp transferred her ownership shares equally to her three children Julia Becker, Nora Marx and Niklas Wilcke. Julia Becker has been chairwoman of the Group's supervisory board since January 1, 2018.

Takeover of the regional newspapers and magazines from Springer

In May 2014, the Funke Mediengruppe took over the regional newspaper groups Berliner Morgenpost and Hamburger Abendblatt as well as the program and women's magazines from Axel Springer SE for a purchase price of 920 million euros . Specifically, these were the regional daily newspapers Hamburger Abendblatt , Bergedorfer Zeitung and Berliner Morgenpost , the advertising papers in Hamburg and Berlin, the program magazines Hörzu , TV Digital , Funk Uhr , Bildwoche and TV neu as well as the women's magazines Bild der Frau und Frau von heute . The Bundeskartellamt only approved the takeover under the condition that three of the purchased and five other program magazines of its own must be returned immediately. The eight titles - including Funk Uhr , Bildwoche , TV neu , Die Zwei and Super TV - were acquired by the Klambt media group .

Another component of the agreement was the founding of joint companies for sales and marketing of the Springer and Funke media. The cartel office approved a joint venture to sell advertisements, but not a merged distribution company. Instead, there was only a joint distribution of the newspapers. The joint advertising marketing was dissolved again after five years.

The Springer titles purchased generated sales of 512 million euros in 2012. With the acquisition, the Funke Group significantly expanded its core business with printed media. The turnover of the entire group rose by more than 40 percent, namely from 929 million euros in 2013 to 1.322 billion euros in 2015.


The Funke Media Group is led by three managing directors with different responsibilities: Ove Saffe heads the regional media division, Andreas Schoo heads the magazines and digital division and Michael Wüller heads the finance division. Former managing directors of the group include a. Erich Schumann, Günther Grotkamp, Bodo Hombach , Christian Nienhaus, Manfred Braun and Thomas Ziegler.

In January 2019, the company headquarters within the city of Essen moved from Friedrichstrasse to the newly built media house of the Funke Mediengruppe on the outskirts of the university district.

Printed media in Germany

Daily newspapers

Some examples of print products from the Funke media group

The Funke Mediengruppe owns thirteen daily newspaper titles in Germany with majority ownership or as a large minority shareholder:

By exchanging or jointly producing content, the titles are largely identical in content. The daily newspapers account for almost half of the Group's sales.

In the 1970s, the publishing house of the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) in the Ruhr area bought the smaller rival newspapers Neue Ruhr / Neue Rhein Zeitung (NRZ) , Westfälische Rundschau (WR) and Westfalenpost (WP) and merged them into the newspaper group WAZ . The publishing house dealt with the purchased titles in a new way: the publishing business was merged and the advertising parts were identical in each local area. At the same time, both the main and local editorial offices of the purchased newspapers were retained and continued to publish independently. In this way, the company avoided subscription cancellations due to the disappearance of traditional newspapers and was able to minimize conflicts with merger control . This combination of an economic monopoly with journalistic competition within a company became known as the "WAZ model". It proved to be very successful, especially through the implementation of high prices in the advertising market, and was later copied by other publishers.

After the fall of the Wall, the WAZ newspaper group acquired shares in three regional newspapers in Thuringia that had previously belonged to GDR parties, the Thüringer Allgemeine (TA) , the Ostthüringer Zeitung (OTZ) and the Thüringische Landeszeitung (TLZ) . The model from the Ruhr area was reproduced in the Thuringia newspaper group . As with the participation in the Iserlohner Kreisanzeiger und Zeitung (IKZ) , the group waived the acquisition of the majority for antitrust reasons, as long as it, as a major minority shareholder, de facto had economic management and was able to integrate the titles into its association. In 2006 the group acquired the Harz Kurier from Jungfer Druckerei und Verlag , and in 2007 the neighboring Braunschweiger Zeitung from the Voigt family of publishers and the Norddeutsche Landesbank . In 2014, the takeover of all three regional newspapers of the Springer Group followed.

The number of buyers of all German daily newspapers has been falling sharply for over two decades. In the case of the Funke titles, this decline is sometimes above average. In the Ruhr area, the annual decrease in circulation, at 4 to 5 percent, is twice as high as the market average. The number of copies sold has fallen by 61.2 percent since 1998. Together, the newspapers lost 699,190 buyers and only sell 442,946 copies. In Thuringia, the decline is very similar, from 299,661 to 204,082 copies. The number of copies sold has fallen by 59.5 percent since 1998.

Development of the number of copies sold
Funke daily newspapers North Rhine-Westphalia
Development of the number of copies sold
Funke daily newspapers Thuringia

In 2008, the group management reacted to the decline in the number of copies sold as well as to the Internet competition in the advertising business by explicitly turning away from the “WAZ model”. Little by little, parts of the supraregional editorial offices as well as entire local editorial offices were merged and thus the journalistic content of the newspaper titles was gradually standardized.

In 2009 the group set up a central editorial office for WAZ , NRZ and WR under the name "Content Desk" in Essen "for Germany and abroad, business, sport, culture, miscellaneous and television". At the same time, around 300 of the 900 editorial posts in the North Rhine-Westphalian newspapers were cut. In the following years, more jobs were continuously saved. In January 2013, the entire editorial office of the Westfälische Rundschau in Dortmund was closed and most of the editors dismissed. The associated publishing company filed for insolvency proceedings in September 2014. There has been no independent medium since then. Instead, the brand continues to be used as an additional title for editorial products from other media that have been completely adopted.

After purchasing the Springer regional newspapers, the Funke Group expanded the standardization to include all of its daily newspapers. In 2015 he set up a joint supraregional editorial team for all corporate media in Berlin under the name “ Funke Zentralredaktion ”. The editorial offices of the individual newspapers were reduced to regional reporting, the central NRW editorial office was closed.


The popular magazines of the Funke Mediengruppe are organized by Gong Verlag and the Funke Women Group, both of which are based in Ismaning . The total circulation of all titles is around 5 million copies per week. The best known are Gong , Bild + Funk , Hörzu , Bild der Frau , TVdirekt , Die Current , Das Goldene Blatt and Echo der Frau . In 2008, the group acquired the women's magazine Frau im Spiegel from the Gruner + Jahr publishing house . With the magazine Hörzu , Funke also took over the “ Golden Camera ” award, which has been awarded annually since 1965 .

The group publishes a wide range of specialist journals at Reiner H. Nitschke Verlag and Verlagsgruppe Bahn GmbH. In 2012, the media group separated from the model publisher Verlag für Technik und Handwerk based in Baden-Baden.

In May 2020, the Funke Mediengruppe announced that it would be dismissing three quarters of its employees at the central program magazine editorial team in Hamburg, which was founded in 2015, in order to outsource the editorial work to external companies. The dismissal of almost the entire editorial staff is necessary in order to “remain competitive in the medium term,” according to the group.

Since 2001, the publishing group Bahn (VGB) , created from the merger of the MIBA publishing house ( MIBA miniature railways ), which had been owned by the WAZ media group since 1996, with the Herrmann-Merker publishing house ( Eisenbahn-Journal ) has belonged in Fürstenfeldbruck to the publishing portfolio. In 2010 the magazine Modelleisenbahner previously published by Motorbuch-Verlag became part of the VGB, creating one of the largest special-interest publishing houses for railroad and model railroad topics. On July 1, 2020, VGB was finally sold by the Funke Mediengruppe to its former competitor GeraNova Bruckmann .

Advertising papers

After the first founding of fully ad- financed local weekly newspapers distributed free of charge in the 1960s, practically all German regional newspaper publishers introduced their own advertising papers across the board in order to prevent competition in the local advertising market from the outset. The newspaper group WAZ founded the West German publishing and advertising company (WVW) in 1977 . This in turn founded in 1978 with the regional daily newspaper competitor Medienhaus Lensing as a joint subsidiary in equal parts the Ostruhr-Werbungblattgesellschaft (ORA) . The WVW / ORA advertising papers publish 84 local titles in North Rhine-Westphalia with a total weekly circulation of 5.4 million copies.

With the takeover of the Thuringian daily newspapers, the WAZ Group also founded advertising papers in their areas of distribution. The Allgemeine Anzeiger has been published since August 1, 1990 , now twice a week with a total circulation of around 1.7 million copies. With the further purchases of daily newspapers, the group also took over the associated advertising papers. In the Braunschweig region, the Neue Braunschweiger , the Echo zum Sonntag and the Harzer Wochenspiegel appear with a total weekly circulation of around 350,000. From Springer, the Funke media group took over Berliner Woche with 30 local issues and a circulation of 1.46 million and the Hamburger Wochenblatt with 26 local issues and a circulation of around 450,000.

Weekly newspapers

At the Group's headquarters in Essen, the Funke media group owns a form of media that has become rare: a local weekly newspaper . In 1850 the Werdener Nachrichten was founded in what was then still an independent municipality , and in 1949 the Borbecker Nachrichten was founded in a district of Essen , which was at times the local weekly newspaper with the highest circulation in Germany. From 1959 both were managed by the brothers Franz-Josef and Walter Wimmer . With the general introduction of free weekly advertising papers in the 1970s, the WAZ group avoided competitive activities and for two decades did not publish any free newspapers in these two districts of Essen. In 1986 the WAZ group bought the ownership shares from Franz-Josef Wimmer. In 1998 the group ended its policy of avoiding competition and introduced advertising papers in these districts as well. In 2000, Walter Wimmer also sold his shares. The group initially continued both titles. The Funke Mediengruppe discontinued Borbecker Nachrichten in 2018 on the grounds of insufficient profitability.


In 2007 the WAZ media group also entered the book business and bought the Essen-based Klartext Verlag . He has been a partner of the group for years and sells books on regional topics.

Electronic media in Germany

watch TV

In 1986 the WAZ media group bought 10 percent of the private TV broadcaster RTL plus , which was founded in 1984, and set up a regional television production as its supplier under the name Westfilm Medien GmbH . In 1997, the RTL-plus parent companies Compagnie Luxembourgeoise de Télédiffusion and UFA Film & TV Produktion GmbH merged to form CLT-UFA . The WAZ Group exchanged its share of RTL-plus, its own television production and a sum of money from the sales proceeds for the paper manufacturer E. Holtzmann & Cie. against a 20 percent ownership stake in the holding company BW TV und Film Verwaltungs GmbH (BW-TV), half of which belonged to CLT-UFA. In another merger in 2000, CLT-UFA and Pearson Television formed the European television company RTL Group , with a 37.04 percent ownership share for BW-TV. In 2005, the WAZ Group sold its indirect RTL Group stake of 7.41 percent at a price of 520 million euros to the second BW TV owner Bertelsmann .

In June 2008, the WAZ media group bought 24.9 percent of the shares in the television broadcaster NRW.TV , the maximum permitted share for publishers under the NRW Media Act. In March 2016, NRW.TV submitted an application to open insolvency proceedings. On May 10, 2016, the insolvency administrator announced that broadcasting would be discontinued because no buyer could be found for the station.


The Funke media group has stakes in numerous local radio stations in North Rhine-Westphalia. For the introduction of private radios from 1990 onwards, the federal state had prescribed a complex organizational model with the two-pillar model . A separation into "operating company" and "organizer community" was intended to ensure editorial independence from commercial operations. In return, the NRW daily newspaper groups were given preferential access to three quarters of the ownership shares of the operating companies in accordance with their local market shares. The newspaper group WAZ acquired a majority stake in ten radio stations in its main distribution area in the licensing process: Antenne Ruhr , Radio Bochum , Radio Duisburg , Radio Emscher Lippe , Radio Ennepe Ruhr , Radio Essen , Radio Hagen , Radio Herne , Radio KW (Wesel district) and Radio Sauerland . In 2007, Antenne Ruhr was split into Radio Mülheim and Radio Oberhausen . In addition, the WAZ Group acquired minority stakes in other local radio stations, including Antenne Düsseldorf , Radio 91.2 (Dortmund) and Radio Siegen .

The group bundles the economic activities of its eleven radio stations with a majority stake in Westfunk GmbH & Co. KG , which as a “service company” de facto manages the business centrally from Essen. Additionally connected has Radio Vest , the majority-owned by Recklinghäuser newspaper is.


In 2003, the then WAZ Mediengruppe founded together with the Georg von Holtzbrinck publishing group and the Ippen Mediengruppe with a third share each, the company ISA GmbH & Co. KG, later renamed Markt Gruppe GmbH & Co. KG , to market classified ads . In September 2005 the company started the classified ad service . In 2014 Funke sold its ownership share to the two co-shareholders.

In 2007, the WAZ Group combined the websites of the North Rhine-Westphalian daily newspapers in the online portal . The start-up was supposed to attract new reader groups through innovative functions such as audiovisual content, content overviews on maps and active reader participation (" Web 2.0 "). To this end, the WAZ Group was the first private-sector publisher to enter into a cooperation with the public West German Broadcasting Corporation for the direct acquisition of contributions from its media library. In 2012, the group gave up the concept of the umbrella brand and restored the independent Internet presence of the daily newspaper brands, while was later set up as an entertainment offer for the young target group.

In 2010 the WAZ media group took over several health portals from Springer Medizin, u. a. , , and and special-interest portals such . In the years that followed, the group bought the job- oriented portals Joblocal , Absolventa and Azubiyo .

In 2016, the Funke media group bought 60 percent of the company Media Partisans , whose main product is the controversial website . The internet portal is criticized for clickbaiting with sensational and sometimes misleading headlines as well as regular disregard of copyrights and defends itself by not understanding itself as journalistic and also not employing journalists. With 43 portals worldwide, Media Partisans achieved a profit of 1.1 million euros in 2016.

Media in Austria

Ownership structure Mediaprint

In Austria , WAZ Ausland Holding GmbH has held a 50 percent ownership share in the tabloid daily Kronen Zeitung and almost 50 percent in the daily Kurier since 1987 . Advertising marketing, printing and distribution of the newspaper titles are handled by the joint subsidiary Mediaprint GmbH & Co KG . In 2018, the Funke Mediengruppe sold 49 percent of the shares in WAZ Ausland Holding to the Austrian real estate and trading company Signa Holding , which, among other things, is the owner of the Essen-based Karstadt department store group .

Since participating in the Austrian Kronen Zeitung , there have been several disputes between the then WAZ Group and the former sole owner Hans Dichand , who each own half of the newspaper. On the occasion of the appointment of his son Christoph Dichand by the old publisher, which was controversial in Austria, in 2001 without the consent of the partner, there was an open break. The WAZ Group defended itself against this decision and put through a second editor-in-chief in Michael Kuhn, whom Dichand finally single-handedly dismissed in 2006 without notice after further disputes. Since then, both sides have tried to enforce their ideas about the management of the publisher and the newspaper in court; due to the stalemate under company law, however, so far without sustainable success.

In the context of this dispute, Dichand's other son Michael accused the WAZ group of working with “organized economic crime” in Croatia and attempting to “monopolize” and “teutonize” the Croatian newspaper market. The WAZ successfully took legal action against these allegations. Michael Dichand also attacked the then managing director of the WAZ media group, Bodo Hombach, personally, accusing him of having "had a house financed by the energy company VEBA [...], ie by the nuclear lobby". Against this, Hombach also defended himself with a lawsuit. The Hamburg Regional Court expressly forbade these and other statements in July 2007 because Dichand was unable to substantiate his claims. The appeal filed by Dichand was rejected by the Hamburg Higher Regional Court in early January 2008. Dichand, on the other hand, lodged a complaint with the Federal Court of Justice and lost here too, which ultimately means that he is not allowed to repeat his claims.

Media in Eastern Europe

At the beginning of the 1990s, the group became involved in the Eastern European market for the first time and owned several print holdings in Hungary , Croatia (see Europapress Holding ), Serbia and Macedonia . At the end of 2007, the group announced the purchase of the Russian regional newspaper Sloboda and described it as the “starting point for further engagements”. In August 2010, Hombach announced that the group would withdraw from Serbia and Romania and look for buyers with high offers. This retreat was preceded by unsuccessful attempts to initially buy up some Serbian newspapers in the usual way, and later one fell for dubious middlemen like Stanko Subotić . This was supported by Interpol accused of laundering money and have organized cigarette smuggling in Southeast Europe. At the beginning of 2012, the Funke media group withdrew from Macedonia, which they joined in 2003, and sold the daily newspapers Dnevnik , Utrinski Vesnik and Vest . The Hungarian newspaper and printing company PLT (Pannon Lapok Tarsasaga) in Veszprém was sold to VCP (Vienna Capital Partners) in 2016.

Further business areas

Printing houses

The Funke media group operates three large newspaper printing plants in Braunschweig , Erfurt and Hagen . The group closed two further printing houses after a sharp decline in the printing volume. The Ostthüringer Zeitung newspaper printing plant in Löbichau was rebuilt with public funding in the early 1990s and closed again in 2013. In mid-2020, the Funke media group also gave up the parent printing house in Essen , which had existed since the 1960s, on the grounds that both printing plants in North Rhine-Westphalia were only half full. The 120 print shop employees in Essen had to be offered an offer in Hagen, despite the lack of capacity. At the time of the closure, the group did not want to provide any information about how many of the employees were actually employed in Hagen.


The spark Logistics NRW GmbH has addressed and unaddressed home deliveries for about half of the inhabitants of NRW on. To this end, it maintains a network of 12,000 deliverers, spread across five regional subcontractors.


From 2009 to 2016, the media group operated as a mobile phone provider and marketed mobile phone contracts for the network operator E-Plus under the Wir Mobil brand . Subscribers to the company's own media were offered discounted conditions, and mobile customers also received free access to the Group's own news portals. The Funke Group ended marketing in September 2015. In October 2016, it terminated the contracts of all existing customers and thus also ended the implementation.


  • Formatt Institute: Local Journalism in North Rhine- Westphalia - Situation and Outlook . Dortmund, June 2012 ( online , expert opinion on behalf of the Minister for Federal Affairs, Europe and the Media of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia).
  • State Agency for Media North Rhine-Westphalia: Structure and journalistic quality in the local media market in North Rhine-Westphalia . LfM report on media concentration 2012 . Düsseldorf, January 2013 (PDF; 2.9 MB) .

Web links

Individual evidence

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