The book publishing industry is not used to the type of mega-mergers that we have seen in the last few years. It would have been unthinkable a decade ago that Penguin and Random House would have joined forces, now they account for 1/4 of all books printed in the world. News Corp is continuing this trend with its recent acquisition of Romance publisher Harlequin.
Harlequin is one of the world’s leading publishers of women’s fiction, with titles issued worldwide in 34 languages and sold in over 100 international markets. The acquisition will incorporate all of their titles into HarperCollins’ global platform, particularly in Europe and Asia Pacific, helping to fuel its international growth strategy. The deal will complement HarperCollins’ current business by expanding a key content vertical. It will also accelerate the digital evolution of both companies.
“Harlequin has built one of the largest and most widely recognized consumer brands in publishing with a highly focused publishing program for women,” said Brian Murray, President and CEO of HarperCollins. “We are thrilled to welcome Harlequin’s management and staff in Toronto and around the world to the HarperCollins family. The Harlequin name and rich heritage will be preserved independently, with the aim to leverage capabilities to bring the book-reading public more choices. Harlequin’s business has grown internationally, and will give HarperCollins an immediate foothold in 11 new countries from which we can expand into dozens of foreign languages for authors who choose to work with us globally.”
The entire deal is worth 455 million dollars on paper and is subject to regulatory approval before the deal could be closed. Considering this is a smaller transaction than the Penguin/Random House merger, it it basically a done deal.
Harlequin has seen diminished sales over the course of the last few years because the vast majority of up and coming young talent are self-publishing, instead of going through a traditional publisher. 25% of all sales stem from eBooks, but their new imprints are not doing that well. Some of the most recent initiatives, such as The Harlequin, Harlequin TEEN, Harlequin MIRA and Harlequin HQN have only published a few books since launching in 2013.
Harlequin and HarperCollins should do well together. The Romance publisher has been floundering on their own and will have a second life under the News Corp. rule. HarperCollins gets all of their international distribution contacts and could feasibly start marketing their own titles in key markets.