According to an insider, the German media group Bertelsmann wins the contract for the US publishing group Simon & Schuster. The Gütersloh group is taking over the ViacomCBS publishing subsidiary for more than two billion dollars (about 1.7 billion euros), a person familiar with the deal told Reuters on Wednesday. With the acquisition and new authors like Stephen King, Bertelsmann would strengthen its position as the world’s largest book publisher.
A company spokesman declined to comment. Simon & Schuster is one of the five largest publishers in the USA and looks after writers such as Stephen King, who is known for his horror novels. Bertelsmann has combined the book publishers Penguin and Random House very successfully, CEO Thomas Rabe said in September. “Given this position, we would of course be interested in Simon & Schuster.” In April Bertelsmann took over the remaining 25 percent of Penguin Random House from the British publisher Pearson. Rabe had already signaled acquisitions back then: “We will ensure that our book business can continue to grow organically and through acquisitions in the future.”
Antitrust law is not a stumbling block
Rabe has so far downplayed antitrust concerns about Simon & Schuster. Competition watchdogs would usually express serious doubts with a combined market share of more than 40 percent, said Rabe in September of the “Financial Times”. But much depends on the definition of the markets. “We looked at that and don’t think this is a problem.” If you take a holistic view of the market and also the strengths of the online retailer Amazon, that is not an obstacle.
Last week Penguin Random House released the first volume of the memoirs of former US President Barack Obama (“A Promised Land”). Overall, the book was published simultaneously in 26 languages, with a first edition of three million copies in the USA alone. Bertelsmann has had good experience with the Obama family. The book “Becoming” by the former First Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama, became one of the greatest bestsellers of the past few years.
Like all media companies, Bertelsmann and its television subsidiary RTL Group are currently feeling the effects of the virus pandemic. However, Rabe recently emphasized: “The figures in the third quarter show a clear upward trend and make us confident about the important fourth quarter.” Between July and September, Bertelsmann sales grew organically by around 1.6 percent. Nevertheless, revenues fell in the first nine months by a total of 6.3 percent to twelve billion euros. (apa)