After a quiet 2015 with only modest mergers-and-acquisitions activity in the trade book market, deal making picked up last year. Four of the Big Five trade publishers were involved in transactions in 2016, the largest being the Hachette Book Group’s purchase of the publishing arm of the Perseus Books Group. The acquisition involved all nine of Perseus’s book imprints and added about $100 million in annual sales to HBG’s publishing program. Simultaneous with HBG’s purchase, Ingram bought the four groups that composed Perseus’s distribution business, making Ingram the distributor for 600 publishers. A similar deal was called off in August 2014.
Penguin Random House was involved in three deals during the year, but in all three PRH was the seller, not the buyer, divesting itself of noncore assets.
The first sale was officially completed Dec. 31, 2015, but announced in early January; it involved PRH’s self-publishing division, Author Solutions, which went to private equity firm Najafi Companies. Author Solutions was acquired by Penguin prior to its merger with Random House and was never a priority for the combined PRH.
A second substantial deal for PRH was the sale of Fodor’s, the company’s travel-publishing unit, to Internet Brands. Although PRH made significant investments to turn Fodor’s into a digital business, management felt that it had taken the unit as far as it could and that Fodor’s would do better in a more digital-centric company.
The third sale was of Random House Studios to Freemantle Media North America. Originally founded in 2007 as Random House Films, the goal of the division was to develop RH titles for movies and television, but the unit had met with only limited success.
Though PRH shed a self-publishing unit last year, Macmillan bought one, acquiring Pronoun in May. Founded as Vook, Pronoun is a self-publishing platform that, prior to the sale to Macmillan, had gone on its own mini acquisition spree during which it bought several digital startups.
The fourth member of the Big Five to make a purchase last year was Simon & Schuster, which bought Adams Media from F+W Media.
The biggest acquisition in the publishing field in 2016 was Follett’s purchase of Baker & Taylor, which further consolidated the wholesaling and distribution segment.
Several companies also made multiple acquisitions in the past year. The Quarto Publishing Group USA made three purchases, the biggest of which was for the book publisher and packager Becker & Mayer. Quarto paid
$9.8 million and agreed to provide up to $1 million for capital considerations, as well as another $1.3 million based on the financial performance of Becker & Mayer’s educational-toy division, SmartLab, in 2018 and 2019. Half of Becker & Mayer’s $19.8 million in revenue in 2015 came from the children’s market, an area that Quarto has targeted for expansion.
Readerlink also made more than one acquisition last year. The company, which is the country’s largest book distributor to mass merchandisers and wholesale clubs, beefed up that part of its business with the acquisition of ANconnect. Formerly part of the Anderson Companies, ANconnect added about 3,600 Walmarts and 644 Sam’s Clubs to Readerlink’s distribution network.
Readerlink’s second purchase, the acquisition of Studio Fun International’s assets, bolstered its publishing operation. Before it was restructured and rebranded by parent company Trusted Media Brands, SFI was known as Reader’s Digest Children’s Publishing. Among the assets acquired by Readerlink were Studio Fun’s branded and nonbranded trade and religious formats, its packaging formats, and its international co-edition formats.
A third player to make multiple purchases was an industry newcomer, North Star Editions. The company, which plans to release its first titles for the children’s and young adult market in 2017, bought Flux, the YA fiction imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide. North Star followed up that purchase with the acquisition of Jolly Fish Press, shortly after the independent press announced that it planned to close.
Publishing Acquisitions, 2016
|Jan. 5||Najafi Companies||Author Solutions||PRH shed its self-publishing division|
|Jan. 5||Turner Publishing||Basic Health Publications||Turner added 280 titles|
|Feb. 2||Quarto Publishing Group||USA Harvard Common Press||Quarto added hundreds of cooking childcare titles|
|Mar. 1||Hachette Book Group USA||Perseus Publishing||HBG acquired the Perseus publishing arm, with annual sales of $100,000,000|
|Mar. 3||Ingram||Perseus Distribution||Ingram bought Perseus’s four distribution divisions|
|Mar. 31||Follett||Wobo||Follett added the e-commerce software developer|
|Apr. 11||Kadokawa||Yen Press||The Japanese publisher acquired a 51% stake in Yen from Hachette|
|Apr. 14||OR Books||Serif Books||OR purchased the U.K. imprint|
|Apr. 18||Follett||Baker & Taylor||The combined company has sales of $3.6 billion annually|
|Apr. 20||Square One||Ocean Publishing||Square One added environmental books|
|Apr. 28||Readerlink||ANconnect||The deal expanded Readerlink’s reach into Walmart and Sam’s Club|
|May 5||Shambhala||Rodmell Press||The purchase involved 40 titles|
|May 26||Macmillan||Pronoun||Macmillan gained self-publishing capabilities|
|May 26||Quarto Publishing Group USA||Burgess Lea Press||Quarto added food titles|
|June 21||Fodor’s||Internet Brands||PRH sold its travel publishing subsidiary to the Web-focused company|
|June 22||ProQuest||Alexander Street||ProQuest added a provider of primary-source collections to libraries|
|July 7||North Star Editions||Flux||Flux had been an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide|
|July 13||IPG||INscribe Digital||IPG’s e-book platform added 65,000 titles|
|July 18||Fremantle Media||Random House Studios||RH divested itself of its film unit|
|Aug. 8||Quarto Publishing Group USA||Becker & Mayer||Quarto paid $9.8 million plus incentives|
|Sept. 1||Catapult||Counterpoint Press||The two indie presses merged|
|Sept. 14||Taylor & Francis||Bibliomotion||T&F added to its business book line|
|Oct. 12||NetGalley||Bookish.com||The purchase involved the Bookish website and associate brands|
|Oct. 19||Readerlink||Studio Fun||The deal involved assets that had been known as Reader’s Digest Children’s Publishing|
|Oct. 31||North Star||Jolly Fish Press||The acquisition came after Jolly Fish Editions announced plans to close|
|Nov.15||Simon & Schuster||Adams Media||S&S added 1,200 titles in buying Adams from F+W|
|Dec.19||Chicago Review Press||Parenting Press||CRP added 70 titles|