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German journalist Hubert Seipel praised Putin for years while receiving money from Russian billionaire, IStories report

Hubert Seipel, a famous German journalist and author known for his books about Russian President Vladimir Putin, received hundreds of thousands of euros from offshore companies linked to Alexei Mordashov, the billionaire co-owner of Severstal, according to a recent investigation by Important Stories (IStories), Paper Trail Media, Der Spiegel and ZDF.

Hubert Seipel long been considered one of Germany’s top independent experts on Russia. His two books on the Russian president, Putin: The Logic of Power and Putin's Power: Why Europe Needs Russia, both originally written in German, have become bestsellers with tens of thousands of copies sold. Seipel's documentary Ich Putin — Ein Porträt (“I Putin – A Portrait”) won the German television award for best reportage.

According to the investigation, Seipel signed an agreement in 2018 titled “Deed of Sponsorship” for 600 thousand euros with a British Virgin Islands (BVI) registered company called De Vere Worldwide Corporation. The journalist was paid from the company through offshore entities, whose ultimate beneficiary was Russian billionaire Alexei Mordashov. According to the contract, the sum was allocated for the creation and promotion of a book on “the political climate in Russia,” which became Putin's Power: Why Europe Needs Russia, published in 2021 by the Hamburg publishing house Hoffmann und Campe.

A handwritten note in the 2018 deed of sponsorship reads: “Similar deed signed by Cavern 08/2013: Putin biography.” According to The Guardian, Cavern is likely to be a BVI-registered company called Cavern Ventures Ltd, which appears to be connected to Severstal.

According to IStories, the note likely indicates that a separate “sponsorship” agreement for another sum was likely made for Seipel's first title, Putin: The Logic of Power. Readers were unaware of Seipel's sponsorship agreements and potential conflicts of interest, as these details were not disclosed in the books. The publisher was also unaware of these arrangements.

In response to inquiries from Paper Trail Media, Seipel confirmed that a Russian billionaire sponsored the books about Putin. However, as reported by IStories, Seipel did not perceive that as undermining the credibility of his work. The agreement with De Vere, according to the writer, states that there is no obligation to the sponsor regarding “the composition and content of the book.” Seipel also argued that Mordashov, being an entrepreneur, “supports projects with private funds.” According to Seipel, Mordashov’s money was intended for the support of his books, but not the movie or public activities. “My books have caused intense debates and ideological battles. Nevertheless, no specific factual errors were found in any of them,” Seipel told the publication.

Alexei Mordashov is the CEO of Severgroup Holding, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the mining company Severstal, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Power Machines, member of the Board of Directors of Nord Gold N.V. and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Sveza. Mordashov is also a co-owner of the German travel company TUI Group.

In 2023, Mordashov ranked fifth in Forbes’ ranking of the richest Russians with a fortune of $21 billion. According to the publication, he has increased his fortune by close to $8 billion over the past year.

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