ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said the company will look for strategic alternatives for publisher Simon & Schuster as it seeks to exit non-strategic businesses and build up cash to invest in content, streaming and other areas of focus.
The storied publisher is not a core asset, Bakis said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference in San Francisco, and as ViacomCBS restructures post-merger he has received “multiple, unsolicited inbound calls” expressing interest. The company has also put CBS headquarters, known as Black Rock, on the auction block.
The publisher, founded in 1924, was acquired by Viacom in the ’80s when it bought Paramount Communications. It moved to CBS when the Viacom and CBS split in 2006 and came back to the fold of a combined company in the mierger that closed last December. It publishes 2,000 titles a year from authors from Stephen King to Doris Kearns Goodwin.
It could fetch over $1 billion, according to reports.
Separately on the call Bakis said has seen no material effect to date on the company due to the coronavirus epidemic, save having to move the release date of Sonic The Hedgehog “in a couple of Asian markets.”
To state the obvious, “There’s been a lot of volatility in the equity markets this week and we have certainly felt a lot of pain as have others. Conceptually, the broader media industry on a relative basis is probably less exposed that other sectors and ViacomCBS is less exposed relative to some of its competitors.”
Bakish had a tough time following the company’s last earnings call when investors pounded the stock lower even before the coroanvirus panic that hit the markets last week. Asked what investors are missing, he said they’re missing the value of the company, “the content value of the company.”