Rupert Muroch’s News Corp said Monday it will acquire the Books & Media segment of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for $349 million in cash and merge it with HarperCollins amid ongoing consolidation in the book publishing business.
HMH Books & Media has an extensive backlist, “a sustainable and growing source of revenues, high margins and cash flow for publishers, particularly evergreen properties with broad, enduring and global appeal,” News Corp. said announcing the deal. In calendar year 2020, over 60% of HMH Books & Media revenues were generated by its backlist, which includes The Lord of the Rings trilogy and other titles by J.R.R. Tolkien; 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell; and All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. HarperCollins currently has rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s works in the British Commonwealth.
HMH Books & Media’s frontlist in the lifestyle and children’s segments includes Antoni in the Kitchen, Instant Pot Miracle, Wow in the World: The How and the Wow of the Human Body, Little Blue Truck’s Valentine and the beloved Click series of middle grade graphic novels.
The children and and young adult divisions also publish Curious George, Martha Speaks, Five Little Monkeys, The Polar Express, the Little Blue Truck series, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, The Little Prince, Stellaluna and works by Lois Lowry, author of The Giver.
HMH Books & Media Productions repurposes its brands across media platforms and is involved in the animated series Carmen Sandiego on Netflix, which will also be a live-action feature film. Other television projects are currently in development.
“There is a resurgence in reading and listening to books, and we believe the brilliant HMH Books & Media backlist and first-rate frontlist have an enduring and increasing value. Timeless writing is a timely source of revenue and the potential to create highly profitable audio and video works flourishes with each passing digital day,” said News Corp. CEO Robert Thomson.
“The HarperCollins collection will be bolstered for children and young adults, and authors around the world will have a larger platform for their creativity and ingenuity. It is crucial to expand in an era in which emerging monopolies threaten the creative marketplace,” he said. That appears to be a swipe at a plans by Penguin Random House to acquire Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS for more than $2 billion creating an international behemoth. Britain’s antitrust watchdog agency, the Competition and Market Authority, is investigating the deal which was announced in May.