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FTC Clears Bertelsmann Purchase of Random House
Jim Milliot -- 6/8/98
BookExpo America could not have begun on a better note for Bertelsmann, which heard late Friday afternoon, May 29, the day before the show began, that the Federal Trade Commission had approved its acquisition of Random House. The okay by the FTC clears the way for the German giant to close its deal for Random House sometime this summer, with some executives speculating that the merger could be done as early as July 1, the day Bertelsmann's new fiscal year begins.
The acquisition, which will form the country's largest trade publisher, had been opposed by author and agent groups, who had asked the FTC to scrutinize the deal, claiming that the merger will lessen the range of books that will be available to the public. Authors Guild executive director Paul Aiken told PW he felt the matter received a "fair hearing" and he was encouraged that the FTC recognized that publishing is a special industry. "In the end," Aiken said, "it came down to a disagreement over whether market concentration will be harmful to readers and the diversity of works available. I hope our concerns are unwarranted."

Bertelsmann spokesperson Stuart Applebaum said that with the acquisition approved, the company is looking forward to working with all authors and agents. According to Applebaum, authors will be free to submit manuscripts to an array of imprints within the new Random House, although he added that the company has not yet resolved how it will handle intramural bidding.

The FTC had been reviewing the purchase since April, and the process was extended a month to give the commission time to analyze industry data to determine if the merger raised antitrust issues. The FTC found no anti-competitive aspects.

Peter Olson, head of Bertelsmann's English-language trade book operations, said, "We are pleased that the combination of Bantam Doubleday Dell and Random House poses no regulatory concerns. We look forward to working constructively with authors, their agents, and booksellers, and to provide readers with a tremendous diversity of publishing and reading choices." Olson will become chairman and CEO of Random House once the merger is completed.

Avin Mark Dominitz, CEO for the American Booksellers Association, was concerned about the merger: "Historically, consolidation within the industry has never been to the benefit of independent booksellers. We'll have to wait and see if this merger, as well as Pearson's purchase of Simon &Schuster, is any different."
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