Thomas Rabe Named New Boss At Bertelsmann

The 46-year-old takes over as chairman and CEO from Hartmut Ostrowski.

COLOGNE, Germany – Thomas Rabe (46) will be the new head of German media giant Bertelsmann, owner of RTL Group and FremantleMedia, the producers of American Idol and The X Factor.

Rabe, Bertelsmann’s CFO since 2006, will take over as Chairman and CEO of the company January 1, replacing Hartmut Ostrowski (53). Bertelsmann, whose assets also include publisher Random House, music joint venture BMG and magazine publisher Gruner + Jahr, said Ostrowski was steeping down for undisclosed “personal reasons.”

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The news surprised the German industry. Ostrowski only took over as CEO in 2008 and had been praised inside and out of the company for steering Bertelsmann through the economic crisis of 2009. After earning just $50 million (€35 million) in 2009, group profits at Bertelsmann returned to $870 million (€656 million) by the end of last year. Ostrowski will now move to a position on Bertelsmann’s supervisory board.

Rabe is believed to have been eying the CEO job for some time and reportedly was considering a jump to the top post of another firm. As well as being a financial wiz, Rabe is considered ambitious, calculating and cool in a crisis. As Bertelsmann CFO, Rabe has been responsible for launching BMG, the company’s music publishing joint venture with private equity group KKR. BMG is currently bidding for the music publishing assets of British label EMI. Citibank is handling the EMI auction and expects to finalize the sale by Oct. 21.

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