The Ingram Content Group has made a tentative offer to buy the retail wholesaling operation of Baker & Taylor, and the Federal Trade Commission has launched what it is calling “very preliminary investigation” of the proposed deal, sources told PW. The Ingram bid was made about a month ago, sources said.
Follett bought Baker & Taylor in 2016, but was mainly interested in the company’s library business, which has long been the company’s strength and has better margins than B&T’s retail business. And while Ingram has expanded its library business, its strength has been on the retail side.
According to sources, the FTC has contacted the two major bookstore chains, Amazon, and a group of independent booksellers, as well as the major publishers, to get their input on the possible transaction. The report of the FTC investigation first appeared this morning in Shelf Awareness.
Early speculation is that the FTC would approve the deal. While the number of wholesalers has shrunk in recent years, publishers have increased their own distribution efforts, with stores buying more books directly from publishers than years ago.
Ingram and B&T issued similar reactions to the news. A spokesperson for Ingram sent the following statement: “At Ingram, we are always looking for ways to better serve our customers and strengthen our business. As a privately held company we simply do not comment on market speculation.”
B&T’s response was as follows: "As a private company, we don't comment on rumors and speculation in the marketplace. What I can share is that we are squarely focused on delivering the very best service to all of our customers."