The sale of Simon & Schuster seems to be nearing a suspenseful conclusion, like the ultimate chapter of a page-turner from one of many nation’s largest and most prestigious publishing homes.
Second-round bids for Simon & Schuster — which publishes boldface names like Stephen King — had been due earlier this week, in line with three folks aware of the negotiations, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate the confidential sale course of. Two of them stated the remaining bidders included KKR, one of many world’s largest private-equity companies, and Information Corp, the proprietor of HarperCollins, a competing publishing home.
The sale course of is anticipated to conclude within the coming weeks, the folks stated.
A sale would put an finish to years of uncertainty for Simon & Schuster, which is owned by Paramount (previously ViacomCBS) and was initially put up on the market in early 2020.
How a lot suitors for Simon & Schuster had been prepared to pay couldn’t be decided. The final time the writer went on the block, rival Penguin Random Home agreed to pay $2.2 billion, however the Division of Justice stymied that deal.
The take care of Penguin Random Home, the biggest writer within the nation, was extensively anticipated to sail by regulatory hurdles. However the Biden administration sued to cease the acquisition, arguing it might be unhealthy for authors whose books are anticipated to be huge sellers.
A federal choose sided with the federal government final fall and blocked the sale, an consequence cheered by antitrust activists and trade teams. It was a serious victory for the Biden administration, which is pursuing an aggressive antitrust technique.
Penguin Random Home declared its intention to enchantment the choice, however Paramount opted as an alternative to place Simon & Schuster again up on the market. As a result of the deal didn’t undergo, Penguin Random Home needed to pay Paramount a $200 million termination charge — a price on high of the untold hundreds of thousands that it had already spent in courtroom. Weeks after the deal fell aside, the chief govt of Penguin Random Home resigned.
Simon & Schuster, one of many 5 largest publishing homes in the USA, remained a extremely enticing firm to purchase. It publishes writers like Don DeLillo and Bob Woodward, together with blockbuster authors like Colleen Hoover, and has outperformed opponents at the same time as print gross sales have stagnated throughout the trade. Within the first quarter of 2023, gross sales rose 19 p.c from a yr earlier, to $258 million. Monetary outcomes at most different main homes, by comparability, had been disappointing.
Promoting to HarperCollins may pose a danger for Paramount. HarperCollins, like Simon & Schuster, can also be one of many so-called Massive 5 publishers that dominate the business aspect of the enterprise. A merger may set off the identical consolidation considerations from the federal government because the take care of Penguin Random Home.
However whereas HarperCollins is the second-largest publishing firm, it’s a lot smaller than Penguin Random Home, so the soar in market share could be much less drastic and, maybe, much less troubling to the federal government.
Accepting a suggestion from a non-public fairness agency like KKR may permit Paramount to keep away from such regulatory challenges.
KKR has a historical past within the books enterprise. In 2018, it paid about $500 million to accumulate RBmedia, an audiobooks writer. KKR stated final week that it was promoting RBmedia to H.I.G. Capital, a Miami-based funding agency, for $1 billion.
Publishing has seen super consolidation lately, and lots of within the trade are anxious in regards to the impression of the sale of Simon & Schuster on the literary panorama.
Penguin Random Home itself is the results of a 2013 merger between Penguin and Random Home. After the merger, a number of different corporations bulked up as properly. Some antitrust consultants predicted that the Justice Division’s success in stopping Penguin Random Home from shopping for Simon & Schuster would put a damper on main consolidation within the trade.
Paramount has bought off lots of its properties lately because it hones its concentrate on video-streaming companies together with Paramount+ and Pluto TV. The corporate has stated it intends to reinvest among the money from promoting these properties — together with Simon & Schuster, the tech web site CNET and the longtime CBS headquarters in Manhattan referred to as “Black Rock” — into its subscription streaming enterprise, which is rising rapidly however nonetheless unprofitable.
Alexandra Alter contributed reporting.