Murdoch's News Corp to buy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s book-publishing division for $349 million

News Corp. owns HarperCollins, one of the industry’s largest book publishers, which will operate the division, called HMH Books & Media, the company said on 29 March.

The Associated Press March 30, 2021 17:38:29 IST
Murdoch's News Corp to buy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s book-publishing division for $349 million

Representational image via The Associated Press.

New York: In the latest news of consolidation in the literary world, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. announced on 29 March it’s buying Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s book-publishing division, which includes such blockbuster releases as JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and George Orwell’s 1984.

News Corp. owns HarperCollins, one of the industry’s largest book publishers, which will operate the division, called HMH Books & Media, the company said on 29 March. The announced purchase price was $349 million.

“Timeless writing is a timely source of revenue and the potential to create highly profitable audio and video works flourishes with each passing digital day,” News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson said in a statement. “The HarperCollins collection will be bolstered for children and young adults, and authors around the world will have a larger platform for their creativity and ingenuity. It is crucial to expand in an era in which emerging monopolies threaten the creative marketplace, so we welcome JRR Tolkien, Virginia Woolf, George Orwell and many, many other distinguished writers to HarperCollins.”

HarperCollins authors have ranged from Harper Lee and Ann Patchett to Neil Gaiman and Roald Dahl. The publisher expects “to realize immediate cost savings, accumulating to more than $20 million annually within two years, including manufacturing, distribution and other cost efficiencies.”

Murdochs News Corp to buy Houghton Mifflin Harcourts bookpublishing division for 349 million

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s book-publishing division has published blockbusters like JRR Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and George Orwell's 1984.

A HarperCollins spokesperson declined on 29 March to say whether the company planned layoffs, saying it was focused on “closing the deal” and that “no decisions have been made.”

In November, Penguin Random House announced it was acquiring rival Simon & Schuster for $2.2 billion, shrinking the so-called Big Five of American publishing — which also includes HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group and Macmillan — to four.

News Corp. had reportedly been interested in buying Simon & Schuster and Thomson slammed the megadeal when it was announced, saying the new entity would be a “book behemoth” and “literary leviathan” that would dominate the market. HarperCollins’ purchase of HMH, like the proposed Penguin Random House deal, is subject to federal approval. Agents and authors worry that a concentration of power in publishing would translate to less competition for book deals and smaller advances.

The deal is the second News Corp. has announced in the past week. It said on 25 March that it was buying financial news publisher Investor’s Business Daily for $275 million.

Houghton Mifflin, which says it serves 90 percent of US schools, said the sale will allow it to focus on its K-12 education business, and it will put more emphasis on digital sales. The company has struggled financially for years and will use some of the sale’s proceeds to pay down debt.

The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

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