Bertelsmann joins race to acquire Simon & Schuster

German media group Bertelsmann is joining the race to buy ViacomCBS’s publishing arm Simon & Schuster, in a move that would entrench the owner of Penguin Random House as the world’s biggest book publisher.

02 Sep 2020 | By Dibyajyoti Sarma

The Simon & Schuster office

According to a Financial Times report, Thomas Rabe, Bertelsmann chief executive and chairman is “interested” in the publishing house and would be ready to bid when ViacomCBS moved ahead with its planned sale, which has been held up by the pandemic.

“We’ve been the most active player on the consolidation of the book publishing market in the last 10 years. We combined Penguin and Random House very successfully to create by far the largest book publisher in the world, actually the only global book publisher. Given this position we would, of course, be interested in Simon & Schuster,” he told Financial Times.

Simon & Schuster is one of the top five publishers in the US and the imprint of authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Stephen King and Joseph Heller. It was one of the prize media assets amassed by the late Sumner Redstone but one that ViacomCBS no longer sees as “part of its core strategy” of television, production and streaming.

The publishing division generated revenues of USD 814-m in 2019, with pre-tax operating profits of USD 143-m. Prior to the crisis, media reports suggested ViacomCBS was seeking about USD 1.2-bn for the business. The sale process is expected to start in September.