ViacomCBS has received 25 inbound inquiries about buying Simon & Schuster since CEO Bob Bakish signaled plans to sell the storied publisher at a media conference in late February.
The coronavirus was already top of mind then for many companies then and Bakish had indicated a sale might have to wait until things settled. “As this market stabilizes, we are going to engage in a process and look at strategic alternatives for Simon & Schuster,” he said.
The company continues to prepare the division for a potential sale, the person said.
Viacom declined to comment.
ViacomCBS is seeking to exit non-strategic businesses and build up cash to invest in content, streaming and other areas of focus.
The publisher is not a core asset, Bakish said at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecom Conference, and as ViacomCBS restructures post-merger he had received “multiple, unsolicited inbound calls” expressing interest.
Simon & Schuster, founded in 1924, was acquired by Viacom in the ’90s when it bought Paramount Communications. It moved to CBS when Viacom and CBS split in 2006 and came back to the fold of a combined company in the merger that closed last December. It publishes 2,000 titles a year from authors from Stephen King to Doris Kearns Goodwin.
The newly merged ViacomCBS had also put CBS headquarters, known as Black Rock
, up for sale but that process has been officially put on hold. In an SEC filing last week, the company announced the temporary suspension of the marketing efforts to sell the former CBS headquarters located in New York. It said it has received “significant interest in the asset.”
“However, with the safety precautions related to COVID-19 announced by public officials now in place, the company has decided to postpone the sale process until interested parties can visit the property in person. The company will relaunch these marketing efforts once the situation stabilizes and anticipates completing a divestiture of Black Rock in 2020.”
As the coronavirus freezes big chunks of the U.S. economy, some deals – especially ones that were already far along – are still getting done like Fox Corp.’s $440 purchase of Tubi earlier this month or Fubo and FaceBank Group’s merger announced Monday. Bidders continue to circle broadcaster Tegna. But with many people working remotely, Wall Streeters noted, a serous due diligence process – which requires combing extensively through a company’s records and accounts – is a hard thing to do virtually.
Bloomberg reported that AT&T is putting on hold the sale of its regional sports nets, citing sources. AT&T declined to comment.