In building Hachette Livre into one of the world's largest publishers, CEO Arnaud Nourry has acquired a number of companies from different corners of the globe. To help give a more unified look to the various subsidiaries of the Paris-based company, Hachette has now adopted a new logo that will be used by all of its divisions. The new look was unveiled at the Frankfurt Book Fair and should be fully in place at all parts of Hachette by next April. “We want the entire family to have one identity,” Nourry said. The new look is being accompanied by a new name for its American subsidiary, which has dropped the USA from its moniker and “will henceforth be known as Hachette Book Group,” president David Young said.
Hachette has grown steadily since Nourry took over in June 2003, and one of the keys to that growth was his purchase of the Time Warner Book Group in April 2006. In an interview in New York last week, Nourry said that Hachette had determined TWBG would be the perfect company to acquire in order to enter the American market even before Time Warner put it on the block. When he got the call a few months later that the group was for sale, “I was on the next flight,” he said. Since its purchase, the U.S. division has not disappointed. “I'm more than happy,” Nourry said about the performance of the American group, which is headed toward record results on the strength of double-digit gains in a down market. The success of HBG has whetted Nourry's appetite to expand further in the U.S. through a significant acquisition. Although HBG is the fifth largest trade publisher in the U.S., “it is not yet at the size I want,” Nourry said. Not only would a deal bring more economies of scale to the company, it would give HBG more clout when negotiating with its business partners. While Nourry has his eyes on a large prize, Young said niche acquisitions in the children's and religion areas would also make sense.
Unlike the heads of some other publishers, Nourry doesn't see anything fundamentally wrong with the book business. “Do I like high advances? No. Do I like returns? No. But we make money,” he said, acknowledging that a key to profitability has been Young's ability to find more efficiencies throughout the supply chain. But Nourry is not afraid to get involved in bidding for a hot author. “I get excited when I hear we're in an auction,” Nourry said. “It's part of the business.” Young said he has had only a few conversations with Nourry about the amount being spent on a deal. And although Nourry is usually across the ocean, Young said he gets faster responses to his questions than he did when the company was part of the New York City—based Time Warner. Both men agree that reducing returns would help improve profits—and the environment—and Young said HBG will be working on ways to cut returns in 2009.
Nourry was upbeat about the prospects for the holidays. “I haven't seen a dramatic decline for books in France or the U.S.,” he said, predicting that books will be seen as inexpensive gifts for the holidays. The new year, however, is another matter. “It could be tough,” Nourry said, especially if returns prove to be high early. Still, Nourry said, “I'm optimistic about the future for books.”