Thomas Middelhoff, Former Bertelsmann Chief, Convicted Over Flight Costs

Thomas Middelhoff
MATTHIAS BALK/DPA DPA /LANDOV

Thomas Middelhoff, former chairman of the supervisory board of Arcandor, looks down in a court room of the district court in Essen, Germany. 

Thomas Middelhoff, a former CEO of media group Bertelsmann, has been convicted of breach of trust and tax evasion and sentenced to three years in prison over costs he incurred as CEO of a troubled department store company.

A prominent German business executive, Middelhoff, 61, was CEO of Arcandor, the now-bankrupt parent company of struggling German department store chain Karstadt from 2005-2009.

The state court in Essen found Friday (Nov. 14) he wrongly charged to Arcandor 26 private flights in chartered jets or helicopters, among other things, news agency dpa reported. It put the total cost to Arcandor at more than 500,000 euros ($623,000).

Middelhoff denies any wrongdoing. He says he went to Arcandor "to save the company, to save jobs."

Middelhoff became chief executive of Bertelsmann in 1998 and helped steer the company into the digital age with mergers and transactions, including AOL, Random House and Napster, according to the Wall Street Journal. After being forced out of Bertelsmann in 2002, he founded his own private-equity company, Middelhoff Capital GmbH.

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