Carol Publishing has laid off all its editorial and production staff and put all its new books on hold as a planned sale to the LPC Group collapsed at the last minute (News, Aug. 16).

Publisher Steven Schragis told PW this was "a very difficult time" for the house, which has been publishing 120 -- 125 titles annually and has an extensive backlist. But he said that he was in talks with two parties, one domestic, one foreign, that had previously been interested in buying the company, as well as one other, and that he was certainly open to further offers.

"We have this tremendous backlist, with some incredibly valuable titles there," he noted. The active backlist is about 1300, of which he said 100 or so were still strong sellers; he compared it favorably with the Grove Press backlist at the time of that company's sale. The backlist had been independently appraised recently as worth between $15 million and $17 million, according to Schragis.

He said the acquisition by LPC, a major distributor based in Chicago, had been planned for the middle of August, after a preliminary agreement had been made last April. Then, two days before a scheduled closing, he was suddenly told by LPC lawyers that the group was "not in a position to move forward." Schragis told PW he thought the various issues that had come up in the course of the negotiations had been resolved and added: "I think I did all in my power to make this happen." Calls to LPC's David Wilk for comment were not returned.

Although he insisted, "we're not bankrupt, we're not in liquidation," Schragis explained he had been forced to lay off all people "associated with new books," which meant the entire editorial and production staff, estimated at around 50 -- 60 people. Meanwhile, Carol is still shipping existing orders from its warehouse. "It's very painful to have to do without so many new books and disappoint their authors," he said.

Carol Publishing, 10 years old, includes Birch Lane Press, Lyle Stuart, Carol Paperbacks and Citadel Press. Its list concentrates on such areas as entertainment, with strong movie, New Age, Judaica and gambling lines. When he put the company up for sale at the end of 1998, Schragis told PW the house was profitable but needed to become bigger to compete (News, Jan. 4). He reported that he had received offers from a number of companies, but that LPC seemed "the best fit." Also at that time, Wilk said he thought the purchase of a publisher, the company's first (it distributes for about 100 independent publishers) made sense, getting it "more involved with owning content."