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Rakuten Sells Overdrive to Private Investment Firm

I do not know why they chose to announce this on Christmas eve, but yesterday Rakuten announced that it was selling Overdrive to KKR.

KKR, a leading global investment firm, today announced the signing of a definitive agreement to acquire OverDrive, Inc. ("OverDrive" or the "Company"), the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools, from Rakuten USA, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rakuten, Inc. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

"At a time of accelerating digital adoption throughout libraries and schools, OverDrive offers its growing user base a best-in-class technology platform and reading experience – something we’re excited to be a part of"

Serving a growing network of 43,000 libraries and schools in more than 75 countries, OverDrive delivers the industry’s largest catalog of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and other digital media to millions of readers around the world. With its proprietary platform, the Company securely allows these institutions to acquire and manage premium and differentiated digital content from a strong publisher network OverDrive has built over more than 25 years.

Rakuten acquired Overdrive in March 2015, paying a reported $410 million for the company. The sale price has not been disclosed, although Marketwatch did report that Rakuten said it would recognize about $365.6 million in profit from the sale when it is finalized next quarter.

FYI: KKR also owns  RB Digital, aka Recorded Books, the audiobook and ebook distributor.

It is difficult to say what this means, given that we know neither the motivation nor the price. But I for one plan to keep an eye on goings on at Kobo, just in case it is the next to go.

image by StarsApart via Flickr

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Disgusting Dude December 25, 2019 um 3:07 pm

Rakuten has never had much passion for ebooks or Kobo.
As a B2C business it was never a great fit with Rakuten, which is focused on B2B.
So ditching it looks increasingly likely.

Overdrive, however, was a good fit since it too is focused on B2B, unless Rakuten see libraries as government. Or else they think publishers are going to escalate their war on libraries.

The apparent price is pretty high which is odd. Maybe they intend to expand it into consumer sales and IPO it. Overdrive has a lot of ebook mindshare and their reading app is all over.

tony December 25, 2019 um 3:15 pm

"KKR, a leading global investment firm…"
Not the first thing *I* thought of seeing KKR…
I wondered what Ms Rusch was doing or going to do with Overdrive.

DaveMich December 25, 2019 um 6:56 pm

We’re all doomed.

Suz December 27, 2019 um 8:32 am

Well, I guess Amazon will be back to getting my business.

RAD December 27, 2019 um 3:38 pm

David Rothman at Teleread is convinced that KKR is the embodiment of corporate evil. I view this from the perspective that Overdrive (eBooks and audiobooks for libraries) complements RBMedia (audiobooks and magazines for libraries) more than it complements Kobo.

I don’t think Overdrive or Kobo is strategic for either KKR or Rakuten; this feels like fiddling with the balance sheet. Time will tell. Amazon yawns.

Bill Rosenblatt January 5, 2020 um 2:19 pm

They announced this on Christmas Eve for the same reason that everyone announces something on Christmas Eve: because they are legally obligated to announce it but want the absolute minimum possible publicity. Standard PR playbook.

David H, Rothman January 9, 2020 um 7:59 pm

Corporations are capable of a lot of good and a lot of bad. Yes, I worry about the latter in the case of the OverDrive takeover.

As for the RBMedia factor, this could work for or against OverDrive users. We’ll see how this shakes out in the long term.

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[…] business models in a minute, but just to stay on the publishing network. Just before Christmas, Overdrive the library system was sold by Rakuten, who also owns Kobo. It was sold to a hedge fund type investment company which puzzled me greatly. […]

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[…] KKR bought RBdigital in late 2018, and bought Overdrive in late 2019. […]

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