The long-rumored sale of Basic Books to Perseus Books LLC is nearly a done deal. HarperCollins, parent company of Basic, and Perseus announced last week that Perseus had signed a letter of intent to acquire Basic. The agreement includes all of Basic's backlist as well as the imprint's current frontlist. While transition issues are being worked out, Basic will publish its fall lists under the aegis of HC in consultation with Perseus. Perseus hopes to close the deal by mid-September.

In addition to the Basic announcement, Perseus said that it will establish Civitas Books, a new imprint to publish titles on African American cultural and race issues. Perseus further announced that it has hired Jack McKeown, former president and pubisher of the adult trade group at HC, as president and CEO of Perseus Books.

Frank Pearl, chairman of Perseus Books, said, "The acquisition of Basic is a perfect fit for our current publishing strategy." Basic, along with Civitas, will join the recently established Public Affairs imprint under Peter Osnos (Publishers Weekly News, June 2) and Counterpoint, headed by Jack Sh maker, "in a dynamic and coherent trade publishing group," Pearl said.The publishers in the Perseus group will maintain separate editorial staffs with all but the Washington, D.C.-based Counterpoint located in New York. The different imprints will, however, use a core of shared services for administration, finance, production, sales and marketing support. HC will handle the trade sales, fulfillment and distribution functions for Perseus under a longterm contract.

McKeown told PW that his top priorities are assembling the support staff and hiring a publisher, senior editor and a marketing staff for Basic, as well as finding a senior editor for Civitas. Perseues has already hired Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. as an editorial advisor to Civitas. The publishers of Basic, Civitas and Counterpoint will report to McKeown, although Osnos will not.

McKeown said he envisions Basic publishing approximately 25 books in each of three seasons, and he also expects to make a string of personnel announcements regarding Basic over the next few months.

In a related announcement, Charles Hayward, former president and CEO of Little, Brown &Co., has been appointed a non-executive member of the Perseus board of directors, where he will serve as a senior-level advisor.