They may not be the sexiest names in the media business, but Reader's Digest and John Wiley both found themselves in the midst of billion-dollar deals last week. On Friday, Wiley announced that it will pay £572 million ($1.08 billion) for the U.K. professional publisher Blackwell Publishing. Earlier in the week, the Reader's Digest board gave its blessing to a $17-per-share bid by the private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings to take the magazine and book publisher private. The RD deal includes about $1.61 billion in cash and the assumption of $800 million in debt.
The two acquisitions are vivid examples of the value placed on the specialized, "must have" information published by Blackwell and the general-interest material of RD. Blackwell had revenue of £210 million last year, putting the purchase price at 2.7 times sales. RD had revenue of $2.39 billion in the fiscal year ended June 30, making the total $2.4 billion deal right at 1 times sales and the cash portion approximately 0.7 times revenue.