The audio edition of Bill Maher's The New Rules will be one of the lead titles when Michael Viner launches Phoenix Book and Audio next month. Phoenix will be Viner's third book and audio publishing venture and the first following Viner's split from ex-wife and former business partner Deborah Raffin. Together, Viner and Raffin founded Dove Entertainment and New Millennium. The basis of Phoenix will come from Dove and, Viner hopes, New Millennium. He has already acquired rights to about 400 Dove backlist titles and has put in a bid to acquire the majority of rights from New Millennium, which is undergoing liquidation following bankruptcy procedures initiated by Viner in fall 2003.

Viner's offer of $200,000 for the assets will go before a California bankruptcy court judge July 12, and it is possible the bid could be topped by a counteroffer. The money raised from the asset sale, as well as from the sale of inventory, will be used to pay creditors, although it appears most will receive only a fraction of what they are owed.

Viner's past problems have not deterred a number of authors from re-upping with him for either book or audio projects at Phoenix, among them Maher and Larry King, who is contributing to a new Phoenix book and audio set for the fall, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Other new book/audio combinations include The History of Prostitution by rock group Kiss's Gene Simmons and What Were You Thinking? by Mark Barondess.

Viner has assembled a staff of 12 people in new offices in Beverly Hills. Midpoint Trade Books is handling sales for Phoenix, while Ingram Publishers Service will do fulfillment.