DK to pay unspecified sum; two firms will do business together

Grolier and Dorling Kindersley have opted to do business rather than do battle, and have reached a settlement in the $8 million suit Grolier filed last November charging DK Publishing and three former Grolier editors with unfair competition and interference in its business operations. As part of the settlement, DK agreed to pay Grolier an undisclosed amount, and both companies have announced plans to enter into a number of joint electronic publishing ventures.

A spokesperson for Grolier told PW that the settlement was concluded "with a handshake" only hours before the first witnesses would have taken the stand at New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan. The settlement prohibits either party from characterizing the suit's outcome, and neither party would express much to PW beyond a mutual relief that it had been settled.

Kristina Petersen, CEO of DK Publishing, told PW, "We're delighted to put this behind us. We all win and we can now work closely with Grolier on several multimedia deals. It gives our editors a chance to continue to do what they do well: publish books."

Both firms claimed that their business ties were more important than the suit. Arnaud Lagardere, chairman and CEO of Grolier, said, "This dispute was inhibiting our group relations with DK. Grolier has built a strong relationship with DK, and we're confident that it will continue to flourish." His counterpart, Rod Hare, group managing director of Dorling Kindersley, responded similarly: "Regardless of the merits, it's very difficult to 'win' a litigious situation. We both share a keen interest in pursuing electronic publishing, and both companies felt it was too difficult to exploit these opportunities under the pressure of this dispute"

Grolier filed the suit in November 1996, charging that Neal Porter, publisher of its Orchard Books imprint, had provided confidential business information to DK management, as well as other publishers, in an attempt to gain employment for himself and two other highly regarded Orchard editors, Richard Jackson and Melanie Kroupa. The three left Orchard and joined DK to launch a new adult and children's imprint called DK Ink. The suit also accused the three editors of "siphoning off" Grolier titles and redirecting their authors to DK and soliciting business for DK while still under contract to Orchard. DK and the editors vigorously denied the allegations.

Speaking on behalf of himself and the two editors, Porter said, "We never intended to harm Orchard... and regret any harm that may have occurred through our actions." Asked whether the combination of a payment to Grolier and the apologetic tone of the editors' statement suggested a tacit acceptance by DK of some responsibility in the situation, Petersen declined further comment. She also said alleged disputes over former Orchard titles had been resolved.

Petersen said the initial electronic collaboration between the two firms will be a "tailored" version of Grolier's Deluxe Two-Disc Multimedia Encyclopedia and an international version to be sold through DK Family Learning direct-selling channels. She also pointed out that DK Ink, the new imprint headed by Porter, will launch in September with mostly children's and young adult titles, in addition to two adult fiction titles and several novelty books.