After a less-than-two-month review by regulatory authorities, HarperCollins’s purchase of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt trade division was completed May 10. HC parent company News Corp had announced March 29 that it reached an agreement with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to buy the division for $349 million in cash.
In comments to PW when the deal was announced, HC CEO Brian Murray said HMH trade would benefit from being part of a trade publisher rather than being a division of a learning technology company, and that he was anxious to see how HC would benefit from HMH’s ties to the film, TV, and streaming worlds. He reiterated those thoughts in a memo sent to HC employees announcing the completion of the purchase. “Like HarperCollins, HMH has a long and storied history of publishing award-winning authors,” the memo read. “There are many outstanding titles—from children’s classics to contemporary fiction and lifestyle works—that can benefit from our combined experience and global reach. I am especially pleased to be uniting the J.R.R. Tolkien publishing program under one roof and eager to see how we can work together to strengthen our IP and production projects.”
In the letter, Murray acknowledged that many decisions need to be made over the coming months about the integration of HMH, but he outlined a temporary organizational plan that will be in place until a permanent structure is developed. Under the temporary structure, Ed Spade, who took over as head of HMH trade following the departure of Ellen Archer last November, will report to Murray. On the editorial side, Deb Brody, v-p and publisher for HMH Adult Trade, will report to Liate Stehlik, president and publisher of the Morrow Group. Cat Onder, senior v-p and publisher of HMH Books for Young Readers, will report to Suzanne Murphy, president and publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books.
In other appointments, Scott Simpson, HMH’s director of distribution, will report to John Reindl, HC’s senior v-p of warehouse and fulfillment for North America. The customer experience, global supply, and inventory planning teams will now report to Larry Nevins, HC’s executive v-p of operations. The rest of the HMH trade leadership team will continue to report to Spade.
For the time being, former HMH trade employees can be reached using their HMH contact information. HMH’s New York City employees have been working remotely since the pandemic hit last year, and the trade offices on Park Avenue were closed earlier this year. HC will not pick up HMH’s Boston leases, though the company may retain Boston-area employees. HC is still in the process of determining what type of return-to-work model it will use for all employees who are now working remotely.
The purchase does not include the use of the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt name, which will remain with the learning technology company, and HC will phase out its use. Currently, HMH trade operates under the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, Clarion, Etch, Green Light Readers, Joseph James Adams Books, Mariner Books, and Versify imprints. Its 7,000-title backlist includes a mix of some of America’s best-known adult and children’s authors, and it has an especially deep picture book backlist that includes The Polar Express, Curious George, and Little Blue Truck. Its author roster also features 10 Nobel Prize winners, 48 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 15 National Book Award winners.
The Houghton name fades from trade publishing
Though the HMH trade division was created only in 2007 (following the acquisition of Harcourt Brace by Houghton Mifflin’s parent company at the time, Educational Media and Publishing Group), the Houghton name has been associated with trade publishing for more than 150 years. With the completion of the HC purchase, it will fade away.
Originally founded as a Boston printer by Henry Houghton, the company moved into publishing in 1864, when it was known as Hurd & Houghton. In 1868, George Harrison Mifflin joined the company, and with his help, in 1878 H&H bought James R. Osgood & Company (which became Ticknor & Fields), the publisher of such important figures as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Mark Twain. Following the Osgood purchase, H&H was renamed Houghton, Osgood & Company. The publisher became Houghton Mifflin & Company in 1880 and published books by such writers as Henry James and Kate Douglas Wiggins, author of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. In 1908, after a series of deaths among the firm’s original partners, Houghton, Mifflin & Company restructured itself, changing from a partnership to a corporation, under the name Houghton Mifflin Company.
Though HM published some educational texts in its early history, it began to emphasize that part of the business in the mid-20th century, and in time that segment came to dwarf the trade operation.