Investment Group Buys B’mann Clubs

Najafi Companies, a private investment firm that often invests in unpopular industries, has agreed to acquire Bertelsmann’s Direct Group North America division, home to the former Bookspan books clubs plus the Columbia House music and DVD clubs. No price was disclosed, and the deal is expected to close in this year’s third quarter. Bertelsmann put the business, which had a weak 2007, up for sale in March.


Thomas Morgan has taken over as chairman and CEO of Baker & Taylor, replacing Jack Eugster, who had moved into the dual role in January following the departure of Richard Willis. Morgan has a long history in the distribution business, and was most recently president and CEO of Hughes Supply Inc. Gary Appel, vice-chairman of Castle Harlan Inc., the New York private equity firm that owns the controlling interest in B&T, said Morgan’s background “will allow us to accelerate our strategic plans.”

German Book Sales Up 3%

According to figures released by the Boersenverein, the German book industry association, total sales increased 3.4%, to 9.58 billion euros ($15 billion). Title production was up 1.9%, to a total of 96,479 new titles and new editions. The sales increase was led by the children’s juvenile fiction segment, which jumped 14% due to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

The book retail sector had growth of 2.1%, with High Street book retailers accounting for 53% of book sales. Online book sales increased 21%, to 850 million euros, and now command a market share of just under 9%.

Results Up At Franklin; Jobs Cut

Sales at Franklin Electronic Publishers rose 16% in the fiscal year ended March 31, to $60.6 million, while the company had net income of $2.5 million, compared to a loss of $3.2 million in fiscal 2007. The company disclosed that it cut its U.S. workforce by 10% in May, bringing the number of domestic employees down to 90.

Softplay Buys Kidsbooks

Softplay Inc., publisher of cloth books for infants, has acquired Kidsbooks, a publisher of children’s books in a variety of formats. Kidsbooks will stay a separate company, with its editorial, product development and sales functions remaining in Kidsbooks’ Boston office under the direction of Kidsbooks president Kevin Murphy.