In what is likely a record price for an audiobook publisher, KKR, the private equity firm that owns RBmedia, is selling the company to the investment firm H.I.G. Capital for what the Wall Street Journal said is more than $1 billion. KKR bought RBmedia in 2018 for what the WSJ said was $500 million. The deal is expected to be finalized before the end of the year.

Since its acquisition by KKR, RBmedia has made a series of acquisitions as well as selected divestitures. Its acquisitions have focused on expanding its global footprint. In 2022 alone, it bought the German audiobook publishers ABOD and John Verlag and the French audiobook publisher Editions Theleme. In 2021, it made its most significant divestiture, selling to the Swedish streaming service Storytel.

RBmedia itself has been bought and sold repeatedly over the last 10 years as investment firms sought to take advantage of the growth in audiobook sales, which was spurred by the move from CDs to downloadable audio. In January 2014, Wasserstein & Co. was the first private equity firm to buy the company, acquiring the audiobook publisher—then known by its original name, Record Books, before its 2017 rebrand—from Haights Cross Communications. At the time, the company had a catalog of about 13,500 audiobook titles. With Wasserstein’s support, it began a series of acquisitions, acquiring HighBridge Audio and Tantor Media. In May 2015, Wasserstein flipped the company, selling it to Shamrock Capital Advisors, which, after making more acquisitions, then sold it to KKR in 2018.

According to the press release announcing the sale, RBmedia has had five years of double-digit revenue growth, and its catalog now has more than 66,000 titles. The company has more than 300 employees.

After the sale to H.I.G. is completed, all RBmedia employees will receive a cash payout based on their tenure with the company. Long-term employees will earn up to two times their annual salary.

KKR is considered one of the leading contenders to acquire Simon & Schuster. KKR, which manages more than $500 billion in assets, already has sufficient funding it place to bid for S&S, but the proceeds from the RB sale won’t hurt its chances.