Penguin Random House to Buy Simon & Schuster

Bertelsmann, owner of Penguin Random House, is buying Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS and will make it part of PRH, the company announced. The deal should close in the second half of next year, subject to the usual closing procedures as well as regulatory approval. The deal is reportedly for more than $2 billion. PRH is the largest trade book publisher in the world, and both it and S&S have substantial distribution operations.

ViacomCBS had put S&S up for sale in March, saying the publisher was "not a core asset." At the time, ViacomCBS was reportedly asking at least $1.2 billion for S&S. Bertelsmann publicly expressed interest in September; News Corp., owner of HarperCollins, was also interested in the company.

In a memo to staff, PRH CEO Markus Dohle said in part, "I have long admired the team at Simon & Schuster and the books they publish, and I am incredibly excited to welcome our new colleagues to Penguin Random House. Simon & Schuster's distinguished legacy of publishing notable authors, perennial bestsellers, and culture-shaping blockbusters is a natural complement to our publishing programs and catalogs around the world."

Referring to the merger of Penguin and Random House and other PRH acquisitions, he said, "As we have demonstrated, we can successfully unite company cultures and prestigious publishing teams while preserving each imprint's identity and independence. Simon & Schuster aligns completely with the creative and entrepreneurial culture that we nurture by providing editorial autonomy to our publishers, funding their pursuit of new stories, ideas, and voices, and maximizing reach for our authors. We recognize--and our success has demonstrated--that collaboration makes us all stronger, and by bringing Simon & Schuster onto our global platform, we will be able to connect their authors and books with even more readers."

Dohle also paid tribute to S&S leadership, saying, "I am looking forward to working with Simon & Schuster's Jonathan Karp and Dennis Eulau. Over the years, I have been very impressed with the publishing company they have created--together, of course, with their longtime CEO, the late Carolyn Reidy, and their extraordinary publishing colleagues."

For his part, Jonathan Karp, president and CEO of S&S, wrote to colleagues, in part, that he is "delighted" by the acquisition and noted a longtime connection between the publishers. "From our company's inception, there has been much cross-pollination between Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House. In fact, the founder of Random House, Bennett Cerf, met Max Schuster when they were both students at Columbia Journalism School. (Richard Simon was an undergraduate at Columbia University at the time.) They all shared an entrepreneurial approach to book publishing and founded their companies within years of each other. I learned these details from my personal copy of Bennett Cerf's memoir, At Random, which was given to me on my first day as a Random House employee. I spent 16 happy years at Random House [and] can personally attest to what a great work culture it is, and what a deep commitment the organization has to its employees and authors. From our first meeting with Markus Dohle and his team, it was clear that he wants to bring Simon & Schuster into the Bertelsmann family with the same thoughtful respect for our creative independence that accompanied the merger of Penguin and Random House--an integration that took years and was handled with exceptional professionalism."

He also observed: "Successful companies are dynamic and change can be galvanizing. In our 96-year history, Simon & Schuster has had seven owners. From these transformations we have adjusted to new management, welcomed other companies into our fold, and always emerged stronger, with an enduring commitment to excellence in book publishing. When we join Penguin Random House after closing, we can look forward to benefitting from exciting new relationships and opportunities that will enhance our ability to provide authors with the best possible publication they can receive."

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