Editor Joffe: Letter to a Friend
Photo: Wolfgang Rattay / REUTERS
The longstanding co-editor of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Josef Joffe, will no longer perform his role.
A publisher's spokeswoman confirmed this to SPIEGEL: "The publishers and Josef Joffe have mutually decided that his mandate as publisher will be suspended until the end of the contract." The "Welt" reported about it first.
The contract with Joffe runs until March 2023. "Zeit" publishers are the media entrepreneurs Dieter and Stefan von Holtzbrinck.
This was preceded by a SPIEGEL disclosure at the end of the week before last.
This made it known that Joffe had warned the Hamburg Warburg Bank against critical "Zeit" reporting.
This emerged from a personal letter that Joffe wrote to Warburg co-owner Max Warburg in January 2017.
Both were friends.
The bank has been criticized for years for illegal tax tricks with shares, so-called cum-ex deals.
At the end of 2016, a critical report on this was published in »Zeit«.
Max Warburg had apparently complained to his friend Joffe about this.
In his reply, Joffe dismissed the criticism and emphasized that he had instead tried to "limit the damage" for Warburg.
"I warned you about what was in the pipeline," Joffe said literally.
It was thanks to his "intervention" that the article "was postponed and the bank was given the opportunity to object".
Joffe also recalled that he had "begged" the banker to hire "an excellent PR agency" for the allegations.
When asked by SPIEGEL, Joffe denied having influenced the reporting.
He merely advised the editors "to give the Warburg Bank an opportunity to express itself".
At the same time, he encouraged Max Warburg to "talk to our reporters."
As a result, the article was pushed back by about a week.
A publisher's spokeswoman also said that Joffe had had no influence on the reporting.
One of the authors of the "Zeit" article at the time, the journalist Oliver Schröm, contradicted Joffe via Twitter.
Schröm published the entire letter and emphasized that Warburg had been confronted in good time.
An early requested interview was turned down.
According to Die Welt, after the letter became known, there was great trepidation in the Die Zeit editorial team.
Accordingly, they feared for the integrity of the weekly newspaper.