While the Germans are shaking things up in America, their home market always seems to stay the same -- but a major change is on the way. Enter Austrian-born Hans-Peter Ubleis, who learned his job with Vienna's legendary Fritz Molden -- becoming one of Germany's most successful commercial publishers in 15 years at Heyne -- and who only recently began building a trade publishing empire at the large but largely unknown Weltbild group.

In a 50/50 joint venture to take effect on January 1 (antitrust willing), the Weltbild houses and Holtzbrinck's Dr mer imprints will combine as Verlagsgruppe Dr mer Weltbild, representing some $120 million in annual sales. Each of the dozen publishers making up the new partnership -- an unprecedented one for the Holtzbrinck group -- will retain its profile and program, with all operations coordinated by Ubleis as group publisher, assisted by financial and marketing directors. Dr mer Weltbild will be based in Munich except for Scherz Verlag and sister company Fretz &Wasmuth, which will remain in Bern, Switzerland.

The goal of the new combination is to build up market share in each of the components, making use of mail order as well as trade channels. Dr mer had lost its high-profile publisher, Karl Blessing, some time ago (he now runs an eponymous imprint in the Bertelsmann group.