The privately-owned Bauer Media Group started to get interesting in 2008. After more than 30 years of high-margin profit from formulaic, low-cost magazines in Germany, Eastern Europe, the UK and US, the company paid £1.14bn for the UK’s high-flying EMAP magazines and radio group. It was a huge splash that surprised industry insiders. It was followed – four years later – by the only slightly less dramatic £350m purchase of Australia’s largest magazines group ACP.
The £1.5bn shopping spree made Bauer a global force in magazines and substantially increased its exposure to advertising. But the deals were striking for other reasons too. They were (by far) the largest acquisitions ever made by the Hamburg-based company which had grown largely by launching its own magazines.
The deals signalled a new era for the low-profile company whose most successful leader, Heinz Bauer, had marked his 70th birthday – between the two big acquisitions – by handing over control to his 30-something, second-youngest daughter Yvonne. He announced he was stepping back from day-to-day management of the company he had lived and breathed since becoming CEO in 1961. Everything seemed to be changing.
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