Total Sports Inc., the Kingston, N.Y., sports book publisher that was acquired by management last fall (News, Oct. 2, 2000), is scrambling to survive following the collapse of a deal with Random House's Ballantine Publishing Group. The two companies had been negotiating since the spring, but Random House pulled out of the deal shortly before the agreement was to be finalized.

John Thorn, owner of Total Sports, said he doesn't know why the purchase, which was estimated to be in the high six-figure to low seven-figure range, was called off. A Random spokesperson confirmed that the deal was off, but had no further comment.

Without the infusion of funds from the acquisition, the future of the house is in jeopardy. "We were thinly capitalized to begin with," said Thorn. "We knew we'd need more capital and good luck. We had the latter [with some bestsellers, including a book from Don Zimmer] and not the former." Thorn said he's now the only one in the Kingston office, there's no spring list and Chapter 11 "may not be that far away."

Ballantine's nixing of the deal went beyond Total Sports to Kansas City-based sports publisher Addax, with which, , a similar deal won't happen either. Publisher Bob Snodgrass said he was looking at other options and also was not certain why Random had called off his deal.

Observers said the idea originally had been to roll Total Sports and Addax into one Random sports imprint, but for the moment it looks like belt-tightening and other factors will keep Random sports publishing distributed throughout the company instead of in one central place.