Bertelsmann is putting its professional publishing unit, BertelsmannSpringer, up for sale as part of its effort to focus on more consumer-oriented businesses. Bertelsmann executives had talked about entering the professional publishing market for years, and the company made its boldest move in the segment in late 1998 with the acquisition of Springer Verlag. At the time of the Springer purchase, executives said the acquisition was the first step in making Bertelsmann a major player in the science, technical and medical market, but the company never followed up with another significant purchase. As a result, Springer accounted for just 3.7% of Bertelsmann's total revenues in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2001. And with revenues of 749 million euros ($666 million), the company was significantly smaller than its competitors in the STM market, Reed Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer and the Thomson Corp.

All three STM publishers are considered possible candidates to acquire Springer, as is the McGraw-Hill Cos. An investment banker noted that Springer is large enough to attract a company looking to break into the professional and/or American publishing market. The U.S. represents about 18% of Springer's total sales.