Bidding for Simon & Schuster Attracts to a Shut

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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 — have been due earlier this week, based on three individuals accustomed to the negotiations, who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate the confidential sale course of. Two of them mentioned 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 individuals mentioned.

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 for sale in early 2020.

How a lot suitors for Simon & Schuster have been keen 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 cope with Penguin Random Home, the most important writer within the nation, was broadly anticipated to sail by means of regulatory hurdles. However the Biden administration sued to cease the acquisition, arguing it could be unhealthy for authors whose books are anticipated to be massive sellers.

A federal decide sided with the government final fall and blocked the sale, an end result cheered by antitrust activists and business teams. It was a serious victory for the Biden administration, which is pursuing an aggressive antitrust technique.

Penguin Random Home declared its intention to attraction 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 price — a price on prime of the untold hundreds of thousands that it had already spent in court docket. Weeks after the deal fell aside, the chief government of Penguin Random Home resigned.

Simon & Schuster, one of many 5 largest publishing homes in the US, remained a extremely engaging 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 business. 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, have been disappointing.

Promoting to HarperCollins might pose a threat for Paramount. HarperCollins, like Simon & Schuster, can be one of many so-called Massive 5 publishers that dominate the business facet of the enterprise. A merger might set off the identical consolidation considerations from the federal government because the cope with Penguin Random Home.

However whereas HarperCollins is the second-largest publishing firm, it’s a lot smaller than Penguin Random Home, so the bounce in market share can be much less drastic and, maybe, much less troubling to the federal government.

Accepting a proposal from a personal fairness agency like KKR might 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 amass RBmedia, an audiobooks writer. KKR said final week that it was promoting RBmedia to H.I.G. Capital, a Miami-based funding agency, for $1 billion.

Publishing has seen great consolidation lately, and plenty of within the business are nervous concerning the influence 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 effectively. Some antitrust specialists 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 business.

Paramount has offered off lots of its properties lately because it hones its deal with video-streaming providers together with Paramount+ and Pluto TV. The corporate has mentioned it intends to reinvest a number of 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.

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