Though Albrecht’s comments were made in front of a 250-strong audience in August 2003, the revelation came only a day after the New York Times bought a 49 per cent share of Metro’s Boston edition.
As Dagens Nyheter reported on Thursday, Albrecht’s resignation was accepted on Wednesday by the Metro International board. Albrecht participated in a meeting to discuss his fate via telephone from Oman, where he is currently on holiday.
Speaking to Svenska Dagbladet, Albrecht called his speech “stupid and taken out of context”. German-born Albrecht says the comment was intended to be harmless joke. He explained that it was a reference to a similar address thought to have been made by German president Heinrich Lübke in 1962 whilst on a state visit to Africa.
“I wanted to joke about my German roots and, as we are not known as great speech-makers, they shouldn’t expect too much,” Albrecht told SvD.
“I take full responsibility for my unfortunate comments and have decided to resign from my position to minimise the damage to Metro,” he added in a press release.
The news coincided with other accusations of racist comments made by Steve Nylund, a Metro executive in the US. Nylund is also said to have used the word ‘nigger’ in a ‘joke’ about the size of the male genitalia.
Nylund has since apologised for his comments and resigned from his position although he will remain with the company.
Albrecht, however, has no plans to vacate his position as managing director of Modern Times Group.
“We know that Hans-Holger isn’t racist,” Vigo Carlund, chair of the Metro board told Thursday’s Aftonbladet.
“Our belief in him as managing director is not affected by this,” Carlund added.
Expressen reported that the Metro International board has decided to take a closer look at the company’s ethics policy.
“It’s not a new policy,” said Vigo Carlund.
“We have always had a zero tolerance policy when it comes to all forms of racism. Now we are reinforcing this so that all employees are aware of what it means. I find it difficult to see any other company which has stronger rules when it comes to this issue,” said Carlund.
Metro originated in the Swedish capital under the Stenbeck media conglomerate. The first paper was published in Stockholm in 1995 by the publishing division of Modern Times Group. Metro International now publishes 42 editions of the free commuter newspaper throughout the world.
But as to compound Metro’s misery, local rival Stockholm City declared on Thursday that it had now overtaken Metro as the capital’s most popular free paper. City claimed 506,000 readers a day, compared to Metro’s 503,000.