The consolidation in the trade market continues today, just not in the way anyone expected, with HarperCollins agreeing to pay C$455 million to acquire Harlequin.
The deal still requires regulatory approval from both the U.S. and Canadian governments, as well as the green light from Canada’s Heritage Department. The two sides hope to close the deal in the third quarter of the calendar year. HC CEO Brian Murray said his team has been "in touch" with Canadian authorities, and is prepared to go through the approval process.
Murray said the plan is to let Harlequin operate as a standalone division within HC. Harlequin CEO and publisher Craig Swinwood will remain in his current position, and report to Murray. Harelquin will also stay in its Toronto offices.
Speaking to the deal, Murray said the biggest upside in acquiring Harlequin is the huge boost it gives to HC's global presence. According to the companies, about 40% of Harlequin’s revenue comes from titles that are published in languages other than English. Because of this, Murray explained, HC will use the Harlequin international infrastructure to offer its authors the opportunity to be published in as many as 30 languages. "In one deal we have greatly expanded our international footprint," Murray said.
HC will focus on investing in Harlequin, rather than looking for operating efficiencies. While HC generated more efficiencies than it expected when it bought Thomas Nelson and merged it with Zondervan to form HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Murray said Harlequin "is a different company," and again stressed its international reach. "We will be focused on growth,” Murray said.
Started as a mass market paperback romance publisher, Harlequin has worked over the years to diversity both its formats and categories. It was one of the first houses to get into digital publishing in a major way, and digital content accounted for about 24% of its revenue last year. The company has long had among the best operating margins in trade publishing, though those slipped in 2013, as revenue fell 6.7%% to $C397.7 million, and operating income dropped 28.9%, to C$52.0 million.