News Shorts
Staff -- 1/15/01

Trilogy Raises Chapters Bid | LearningExpress Offers New Feature
WMA to Acquire Writers Shop | Bertelsmann Spanish Alliance Dissolved
Disney Restructures Kids' Book Group | Keating Joins Plume Books
Potter Tops B&N Lists | Reed Extends Harcourt Offer
BISG Meeting to Discuss Lessons from Music Industry

Trilogy Raises Chapters Bid In the latest development in the bitter takeover battle between Chapters and Indigo, Trilogy Retail Enterprises has raised its cash offer to Chapters shareholders to C$15 (about $10.05) from C$13 ($8.71) a share. Trilogy is seeking to buy some 4.9 million shares, which would cost it C$73.3 million ($49.1 million). Trilogy currently owns 11% of the company and needs 50.1% for a majority stake.

Trilogy is headed by Gerald Schwartz, the husband of Heather Reisman, founder of Chapters rival Indigo Books. If the takeover is successful, Trilogy will close 10 Chapters stores and replace Chapters CEO Larry Stevenson with Reisman, according to Reuters.

Continuing a sometimes nasty exchange of open letters and press releases from the two sides, Trilogy emphasized that the new price is 74% above the average closing price of Chapters' shares in the 20 trading days before its offer was announced November 28. For its part, Chapters noted that although the waiting period for the Competition Bureau's approval of the merger had passed, the Competition Bureau has not yet approved the merger and continues to look into the matter. Moreover, the Ontario Securities Commission should issue a ruling soon on a Chapters' complaint that Trilogy is withholding information about Indigo from Chapters shareholders. The commission is considering a separate complaint made by Trilogy concerning a Chapters Directors' Circular that questioned Trilogy's offer.
--John Mutter

LearningExpress Offers New FeatureLearningExpress, publisher of test preparation and career information books as well as study guides and practice tests, has introduced a writing assessment feature that will score students' essays. The new service is part of LearningExpress's recently upgraded Web site (, which also sells printed materials and offers downloadable versions of many of the company's bestselling titles.

To receive an assessment of a writing sample, users enter their essays online and receive, within 72 hours, an evaluation of their work and recommendations for improvement. According to LearningExpress president and CEO Barry Lippman, the writing service is just another way the company is using the Internet to expand its product
base. The company currently offers the writing essays for New York's 4th-grade test, and Lippman expects soon to add more states as well as 8th-grade tests to its lineup.
Lippman said its Web site has attracted "lots of traffic" from both the consumer and library markets. Libraries are one of LearningExpress's largest markets, and the company offers a site licensing program for libraries. More than 200 libraries have signed up for the service in less than two months.

WMA to Acquire Writers ShopThe William Morris Agency plans to acquire the Writers Shop literary agency from principals Virginia Barber, who launched it in 1974, and Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, her partner since last year.

A WMA announcement from president James A. Wiatt and Owen Laster, head of the agency's worldwide literary operations, said an agreement had been reached in principle to bring the Writers Shop people aboard. Walsh and Barber will both become senior v-ps at WMA, with Walsh becoming head of the agency's New York literary department. The move was part of a strategic plan to expand East Coast literary activity and "maintain our standing as the city's preeminent literary and talent agency," said Wiatt.

Jay Mandel, who has worked at the Writers Shop for six years, will also move over to the Morris staff.

The agency, known after its founder as the Virginia Barber Agency until last year, has a number of notable clients, including Anne Rivers Siddons, Peter Mayle, Alice Munro, Anita Shreve and Rosellen Brown. Walsh brought in Kathy Reichs, Christina Schwarz, Ethan Hawke and Scott Lasser, among others.

The planned acquisition was seen as an effort by WMA to bolster its roster as well as to strengthen its literary staff after Robert Gottlieb decamped last fall to form his Trident Media Group, taking a number of Morris staffers and clients with him.
--John F. Baker

Bertelsmann Spanish Alliance DissolvedIn an unusual setback for a major Bertelsmann alliance, the joint venture in paperback publishing between the German group's Spanish imprint Plaza y Janés and Planeta, Spain's number-one trade group, using the logo DeBolsillo, is being dissolved. Planeta takes back its marbles and is expected to set up a new mass market reprint house of its own.

Bertelsmann strategy in Europe has long stressed combined operations with the trade leader in each targeted country. In France, the giant France Loisirs book club is a joint venture between Bertelsmann and Vivendi Universal Publishing (ex-Havas), and so is e-tailer In Italy, Bertelsmann joined forces with that country's leader, Mondadori, for joint club and online operations. (Bertelsmann and Planeta also did their e-tailing together.)

In the case of the 50-50 Planeta accord, Bertelsmann was responsible for operations, while each group negotiated reprint rights with its own stable of authors. According to the Spanish trade journal Delibros, the first sign of friction appeared in joint operations of, which ended with Planeta's withdrawal from the portal.
--Herbert R. Lottman

Disney Restructures Kids' Book Group

Disney Publishing Worldwide has announced that it will separate its children's book division into two groups, Hyperion Books for Children and Disney Global Children's Books.
Andrea Pinkney has been named editorial director of the Hyperion list. She replaces Katherine Tegen, who left last October to go to HarperCollins Children's Books, where she is editorial director at large. Pinkney was previously executive editor of Hyperion's Jump at the Sun imprint, which she founded in 1998; she will continue to edit books for the imprint, in addition to overseeing the unit in her new role.

"Hyperion has grown very fast over the past few years, and it's now time for a new editorial director to take it even further," said Lisa Holton, senior v-p and publisher. "I also think it's important to acknowledge that Hyperion is editorially separate from the
Disney company and is interested in putting out a high-quality, literary list," she said.
Disney Global, which includes Disney Press, Global Retail and Global Continuity, will be headed by Jackie Carter as editorial director. She had been Global Continuity director. "The mission of Disney Global Children's Books is to create high quality books featuring kids' favorite [Disney] characters," Holton said. Pinkney and Carter will report directly to Holton.

Two other promotions were announced in conjunction with this restructuring. Ken Geist is now v-p, creative director and preschool, and Jeanne Mosure was named v-p, associate publisher of Global Children's Books.
--Jason Britton

Keating Joins Plume BooksTrena Keating joined Penguin Putnam January 8 as editor-in-chief of its Plume Books imprint. Keating, who had been a senior editor at HarperCollins, succeeds Rosemary Ahern who was named director of Pocket Books' Washington Square imprint last month. While at HC, Keating worked on a variety of projects including First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung and Emerald Germs of Ireland by Patrick McCabe. She has also worked with authors Matt Gr ning, Marian Wright Edelman and A.J. Verdelle. Keating reports to Kathryn Court, Plume publisher.

Potter Tops B&N ListsJ.K. Rowling's Harry Potter titles dominated the fiction hardcover and paperback bestsellers lists in 2000 at Barnes & Noble's superstores. According to B&N, its top-selling fiction hardcover last year was Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which was followed by The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Chamber of Secrets and The Sorcerer's Stone. John Grisham's The Brethren took the fifth spot on the list, followed by The Bear and the Dragon by Tom Clancy. Patricia Cornwell's The Last Precinct was the seventh top seller, with Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins's The Indwelling and The Mark in the eighth and ninth spots, respectively.

In paperback fiction, The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets were the top two sellers, followed by The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Rounding out the top five were Grisham's The Testament and While I Was Gone by Sue Miller.

In nonfiction hardcover, Spencer Johnson's Who Moved My Cheese? was the number-one seller, with Body for Life by Bill Phillips and Michael D'Orso in second place. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, The O'Reilly Factor by Bill O'Reilly and Relationship Rescue by Phillip McGraw occupied the three, four and five slots.

Nonfiction paperback sales were led by Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution by Robert Atkins, followed by Gary Zukav's The Seat of the Soul. The next three bestsellers were Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki, The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger and The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

Reed Extends Harcourt OfferReed Elsevier has extended its tender offer for Harcourt General shares until February 8. The offer had been set to expire at midnight January 8. Reed said it was extending the offer to accommodate the regulatory review process, and noted that a further extension is possible. This is the second time Reed has extended its offer; its original deadline was December 8. The second extension makes it all but certain that government regulators are looking for Reed to divest some Harcourt properties before it will approve the deal. Despite the delay in closing the tender offer, Reed said it still expects to complete the deal before the end of the first quarter. Reed announced its plans to acquire Harcourt, and then sell some pieces to Thomson Corp., last fall (News, Oct. 30, 2000).

BISG Meeting to Discuss Lessons from Music IndustryThe Book Industry Study Group's winter e-publishing conference will be held January 31 at the McGraw-Hill Building in New York. The topic will be "What Can the Publishing Industry Learn from the Music Industry," and the meeting will begin at 2 p.m. with a keynote address by Michael Overdorf, chairman and CEO of Innosight, a research and consulting firm. Overdorf's address will be followed by a panel discussion on perspectives from the music industry that will feature Kevin Conroy, BMG Entertainment; Brian Queen, IBM; and Cary Sherman, Recording Industry Association of America. A second panel will look at perspectives from the publishing industry with panel members Steven Brill, Brill's Content; Michael Fragnito,; Michael Miron, ContentGuard; and M.J. Rose, media columnist. For more information, go to


Bernard Geis
Bernard Geis, a book publisher known for his aggressive marketing of sexy bestsellers in the 1960s and 1970s, died in New York City on January 8. He was 91. In 1966, Geis published Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls and the two revolutionized author promotion tours. Geis began his publishing career at Grossett & Dunlap and moved to Prentice-Hall, where he published Art Linkletter's Kids Say the Darndest Things in 1957. He formed his own publishing company, Bernard Geis Associates, in 1959. Other successes were Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl and memoirs by Harry Truman, Groucho and Harpo Marx.

Frank Williams, 74
Frank Orland Williams, a Chicago book designer and editor also known for his work as a historical mapmaker for many publishers, died January 4. He was 74. Williams began his career in 1960 at the University of Oklahoma Press. He joined Beacon Press in Boston in 1965 and moved to the University of Illinois Press in 1969; he also served as president of the Chicago Book Clinic. In 1981, he retired as assistant director of the University of Illinois Press.