Bertelsmann's Penguin division snaps up Simon & Schuster

By FRANK JORDANS and HILLEL ITALIE 26 November 2020, 12:00AM

BERLIN (AP) — German media giant Bertelsmann said Wednesday that it is buying publisher Simon & Schuster, further expanding its existing U.S. portfolio that already includes the number one American publisher Penguin Random House.

Bertelsmann said it is buying the New York-based firm, whose authors include Stephen King, Hillary Clinton and John Irving, from ViacomCBS for $2.17 billion in cash.

“Simon & Schuster strengthens Bertelsmann’s footprint globally, and (particularly) in the U.S., its second-largest market,” the Guetersloh-based company said in a statement.

The purchase of Simon & Schuster reduces the so-called Big Five of American publishing — which also includes HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group and Macmillan — to four.

The move will create a new publishing superpower and requires approval from the US Justice Department. No U.S. publisher in modern times would approach the power of the new company.

Bertelsmann's rival News Corp slammed the deal.

“There is clearly no market logic to a bid of that size – only anti-market logic," News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson said in a statement. “Bertelsmann is not just buying a book publisher, but buying market dominance as a book behemoth.”

“This literary leviathan would have 70% of the U.S. literary and general fiction market,” Thomson added. "There will certainly be legal books written about this deal, though I wonder if Bertelsmann would publish them.”

Agents and authors often worry that a concentration of power in publishing could mean less competition for book deals, and lower advances.

But Penguin Random House chief executive Markus Dohle told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Simon & Schuster would retain its editorial independence and that individual imprints within Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster could continue to compete with each other for book deals.

Under the new company, authors would range from John Grisham and Stephen King to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Every living former or current American president, from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump, will have published a book with the new company. So will first ladies such as Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush and Michelle Obama.

Dohle declined to say whether there would be any layoffs, said it was too soon to speculate.

Simon & Schuster’s current president and chief executive, Jonathan Karp, will continue to lead the publishing house, said Bertelsmann.

The German conglomerate, which was founded in 1835 and also owns a broad portfolio of broadcast, music and online businesses, has been the sole owner of Penguin Random House since April.


Italie contributed from New York.

By FRANK JORDANS and HILLEL ITALIE 26 November 2020, 12:00AM

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