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Simon & Schuster is Up For Sale

It looks like the Big Five is about to become the Not-So-Big-Four.

Variety reports that ViacomCBS (or whatever they are calling themselves today) is considering a sale of its book publishing unit.

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told investors Wednesday that the company is taking a hard look at all operations. Simon & Schuster has generated inquiries from prospective buyers in the past, Bakish said during a Q&A held as part of Morgan Stanley’s annual investor conference in San Francisco.

Simon & Schuster “is not a core asset. It is not video-based. It does not have significant connection for our broader business,” Bakish said. “We have had multiple unsolicited inbound calls about that asset, and so as the market stabilizes, we are going to engage in a process” to examine strategic alternatives. ViacomCBS said publishing revenue in 2019 came to $814 million, down 1.3% from $825 million in the prior year.

PW reports that S&S CEO Carolyn Reidy confirmed the potential sale in a letter to staff. The letter did not include much in the way of addition detail, however.

This does not come as a surprise. Simon and Schuster is not technically the smallest of the "Big Five" US trade publishers, but it is the most vulnerable. The other four are either significantly larger in their own right or part of larger international publishing conglomerates (Macmillan is owned by Holtzbrink, Hachette is owned by Legardere Publishing, HarperCollins is twice the size of S&S, and PRH is PRH).

In fact, I would have described S&S as the most likely candidate to be bought by Amazon when it looked like the retailer wanted to take a bite out of the industry, and for years now the only thing stopping Legardere, PRH, or Holtzbrink from buying S&S was that CBS didn’t want to sell.

That has apparently changed, and soon so could the ownership of S&S.

Who do you think is going to buy them?

It’s hard to guess who will, but I would bet that I can name the one company that will not.


I know that most will assume that Amazon is the leading candidate, but as I see it Amazon already gets enough shit from the publishing industry, and it doesn’t need even more regulatory oversight. S&S doesn’t have enough revenue to make the headaches worth it, so Amazon is probably going to pass.

Do you think Bezos might buy it?

image by ActuaLitté via Flickr


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Disgusting Dude March 4, 2020 um 7:53 pm

I’m hardly the first to point out that S&S is the last big Manhattan publisher still owned by an American conglomerate. Warner sold out ages ago. So did Disney, more recently. And guess who bought both: Lagardere.
That makes them the first suspect.

Also, consider that getting rid of the S&S dead weight makes the rest of the company easier to sell to somebody in desperate need of video assets. Apple, Google, are candidates there. Even Amazon.

So Amazon might not buy S&S but buying the rest wouod make sense.

Disgusting Dude March 5, 2020 um 11:03 am

BTW, VIACOMCBS is, as of this week, worth $18B.
That includes S&S, the black rock building and the massive Paramount video archives.
They’re the classic asset-rich cash poor company.
Gordon Gekko is probably drooling.

Gordon Horne March 5, 2020 um 1:48 pm

"[Simon & Schuster] is not a core asset. It is not video-based. It does not have significant connection for our broader business.”

Is ViacomCBS’s core business video or entertainment? How much of their video product is story-based? How many of those stories are licensed from books (or comic books)?

This at a time when self-published authors are told again and again to think of themselves as being in the entertainment industry, not the book industry.

Disgusting Dude March 5, 2020 um 2:24 pm

Oh, ViacomCBS is definitely in the entertainment business.
But S&S isn’t.
Remember the big five (four, three…) are in the cultural guardianship business.
They sell literature, no base entertainment.

Temp Commenter March 6, 2020 um 3:11 pm

Small typo:

> It’s hard to guess who will, but I would bet that I ***cam*** name the one company that will not.

cam -> can.

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