In its third expansion of the year, 30-year-old Independent Publishers Group (IPG) in Chicago announced that it would acquire Massachusetts academic distributor Paul & Company Publishers Consortium Inc. The purchase marks IPG's entrée into academic and scholarly books. This year IPG also launched a Spanish-language books program and began distribution directly into Canada.

IPG CEO Curt Matthews told PW that the company plans to open a Boston office for its newly formed academic division, which will operate under the Paul & Company name. Paul & Company founder and president Bob Paul will stay on as a consultant for the next two years. He will be based in Boston as will Jeremy Soldevilla, former COO of the U.S. division of Blackwell Publishers Inc., who was recently hired as director of academic markets. IPG plans to add four or five more people to its Boston office, which will open later this spring or early summer. Susan Sewall, who handles foreign rights, will relocate to the new office.

The impetus behind the Paul & Company acquisition is part of what Matthews refers to as IPG's strategy "to look ahead all the time. We think Paul & Company represents a change in the business. Things that used to be separate now overlap. It used to be that bookstores didn't sell professional books, and now they do. I have the impression that the academic market hasn't been served well. Bob Paul is an old pro at the business, and we think we're going to hit the ground running with this. We know that right now a lot of publishers in the IPG Group can be marketed successfully for course adoption. Paul & Company publishers will benefit from IPG's success in selling to the trade."

Paul notes that his company's growth was hindered in part because publishers of trade books wanted to go to a distributor that would take their whole list. In addition, he adds, "Lots of publishers considered Paul & Company a one-person company, and they were afraid to put all their eggs in a one-person operation basket."

Founded in 1990, Paul & Company has close to 50 clients, including Allen & Unwin (Australia), Asian Development Book (Philippines), Carcanet (U.K.), and VU University Press (Netherlands).

IPG, which was founded in 1971 and currently represents 6,500 frontlist and backlist titles, is in the process of transferring Paul & Company's inventory from Fitchburg, Mass., to its Chicago warehouse. Matthews anticipates that the transfer will be completed by the end of this month. Paul & Company titles will combine with IPG trade books for billing and shipping.