Chinese publisher and printer Phoenix Media has agreed to acquire the children's publishing unit of Lincolnwood, Ill.-based Publications International Ltd. (PIL). The deal, for $80 million, is expected to be completed in July. The purchase involves all of PIL's children's assets, which include more than 1,000 titles. The PIL children's management team of Jack Alexander, Jennifer Goldstein, and Bridget Heath will continue to run the business. PIL founder Lou Weber will serve as an advisor and continue to operate PIL's adult businesses.

All employees working at PIL's children's group are expected to stay with the company and its offices will remain in Lincolnwood. Asked what will change, Weber told PW, it will pretty much be "business as usual." He added that he expects that Phoenix, said to be a subsidiary of Jiangsu Phoenix Publishing Co. which is based in Nanjing, will expand PIL's China's business. PIL has had a small operation there and Weber said Phoenix became aware of PIL and began discussions about a possible sale.

The PIL purchase is believed to be the largest acquisition of an American trade publisher by a Chinese company. PIL is best known for publishing children's books based on licenses and has deals with companies such as Disney, Fisher-Price, Mattel, Nickelodeon, Sesame Workshop, and Warner Bros. The company also has a large line of children's digital products. An agreement to sell the children's unit to RC2 Corp. for $163 million in 2008 was called off as the worsening national economy made financing the cost too difficult.