Penguin Random House Parent to Buy Simon & Schuster

From The Wall Street Journal:

ViacomCBS Inc. is selling book publisher Simon & Schuster to German media giant Bertelsmann SE for almost $2.18 billion, ViacomCBS said Wednesday, in a deal that would create a publishing behemoth accounting for about a third of all books sold in the U.S.

The transaction would put the publishers of some of the world’s bestselling authors including Stephen King, Bob Woodward, Dan Brown and John Grisham under the same corporate umbrella. Bertelsmann SE’s Penguin Random House already is the U.S.’s largest publisher by books sold, while Simon & Schuster is the third largest, behind News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers.

ViacomCBS put Simon & Schuster up for sale in March, saying it would use the cash proceeds to further invest in its streaming-video efforts.

. . . .

Markus Dohle, chief executive of Penguin Random House, said the deal shouldn’t raise competition concerns. “If you look at the book market, it is unconcentrated,” he said, adding that over the past decade many small new publishers emerged. “There have been a lot of new successful entrants in the market.”

Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp, which owns HarperCollins Publishers, said the deal would harm distributors, retailers, authors and readers. “There is clearly no market logic to a bid of that size—only anti-market logic,” he said in a statement. “Bertelsmann is not just buying a book publisher, but buying market dominance as a book behemoth.” News Corp also owns The Wall Street Journal.

. . . .

Including Simon & Schuster, that U.S. market share would rise to about 34%. HarperCollins Publishers, the second largest publisher by unit sales, accounted for about 11% of print books sold in the U.S. during the same period.

Richard Pine, a well-known New York literary agent, said he is concerned the creation of such a large publishing house would “lead to an unhealthy obsession with publishing mega bestsellers.”

“It’s like baseball, you need the minor leagues,” Mr. Pine said. “Authors need to be nurtured. If you have a system of one book and done when the magic didn’t happen, then those writers will be left behind.”

Lorraine Shanley, president of the industry consultants Market Partners International Inc., said adding Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House’s portfolio “would make it increasingly difficult to compete, not just for the other big publishers but for the smaller publishers. Penguin Random House is also a major distributor, as is Simon & Schuster. Between the two they’d have a very large segment of the market when it comes to distribution.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (PG apologizes for the paywall, but hasn’t figured out a way around it.)

15 thoughts on “Penguin Random House Parent to Buy Simon & Schuster”

  1. 1- Good job, CBSVIACOM! They were hoping to get a billion and got apparently Bertelsman and HarperColling into a bidding war to get more than double.

    2- No, the expanded randyPenguin will not be selling a third of books. They *might* sell a third of tradpubbed *trade* books. But only because Indie, Inc and APub aren’t counted. By recent reports right here, the randy Penguin sold $4B last year and S&S sold $850M. That is not a third of the $28-31B of US publishing.

    No matter how much they try to pretend only corporate publishing matters the reality is otherwise.
    here’s a good breakdown:

          • The article writers, too?
            No shock about the Atlantic or Publishing Perfection being disconnected from the real world but the WSJ, too?
            You’d think a business focused publication would know what year tbey’re living in and understand scaling issues.

            Maybe it’s another NYC thing?
            Like Brigadoon? 😀

        • Well, they’re calling for Joe Biden to be the new Teddy Roosevelt and bust up the evil Amazon trust, which they think is the new Standard Oil. So they are just coming out of the 19th century and boldly venturing into the very first years of the 20th.

          Because they’re Progressive, dontcha know.

          (This explains why so many of them still think socialism is a good idea that cannot possibly go wrong. News of the Russian Revolution has yet to reach them. And who knows? Maybe when they finally see their first Model T Ford, they might fall out of love with hugely expensive and impractical mass-transit boondoggles, such as California’s high-speed passenger train from nowhere to nowhere.)

  2. The big five’s exclusion of comparison to self-pub is like talking about the big three in sports (MLB, NBA, NHL) and not mentioning the NFL.

    • Actually, it makes me think a little of how devotees of the NFL and Major League Baseball argue about which of the two is the world’s biggest spectator sport, completely oblivious to the existence of soccer.

      • Maybe because they think of soccer as “a bunch of guys running around like scared chickens, waiting for a referee to blow a call”?

      • Well in my experience Americans can be a little parochial at times (so no different from many other nations).

        Based on spectator numbers/fans Association Football (soccer) is the clear world leader followed by cricket (think of the numbers of fans in the subcontinent) but basketball does come in at number three so that’s one US sport (even though most of its fans are outside USA and thus not devotees of the NBA). As for baseball and NFL they’re well down the list, probably round about the same level as rugby and golf.

        And totally irrelevant when it comes to this OP – but PG has recently posted about Covid in Chicago – the NFL really needs to learn from the likes of the Indian Cricket Board when it comes to running sporting events in a time of plague.

        • At least beisbol has a following in Latin America and Japan. American football isn’t even played in Canada, for crying out loud.

          Nice story about Indian cricket. What a pity it will never be noticed here, because let’s face it, North American sports are run by people who don’t even know that India is real.

          • Cricket, while massive, is as regional as baseball. Limited mostly to the heirs of the old empire.
            Both share a common lineage, though, so maybe it might be fair to group them. 😉

            • Category IV.803.Lambda.Lambda.7.5.14(b): ‘Slow, boring games with deliberately obfuscated rules, descended from “rounders”.’

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