Paramount has completed the $1.62 billion sale of book publisher Simon & Schuster to investment firm KKR, nearly a year after a richer sale to Penguin Random House ran aground over regulatory issues.
The all-cash transaction, announced last August, makes Simon & Schuster a stand-alone private company and the only independent major trade publisher. Last year, a judge in an antitrust case ruled against the pending $2.2 billion acquisition by a direct competitor, citing monopoly concerns and negative potential impact on customers and other publishers. The deal was then officially jettisoned last November, with Bertelsmann’s Penguin Random House paying Paramount a $200 million breakup fee.
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Simon & Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp will continue to lead the company, which was founded in 1924.
Paramount, like its large media rivals, is contending with a challenging operating environment in linear TV and motion pictures as it also battles to reach profitability in the ultra-competitive streaming market. Having rebranded itself after the 2019 merger of Viacom and CBS, Paramount has recently been looking for opportunities to streamline costs and reduce debt. The company held talks with potential buyers of a stake in BET before ultimately putting a pin in those conversations.
“After a highly competitive process, this is an ideal outcome for both Simon & Schuster and Paramount,” said Paramount CEO Bob Bakish in a press release. “Simon & Schuster is positioned well for future growth, and the transaction itself demonstrates significant value capture for Paramount and meaningfully advances our de-levering plan. It has been an honor to have Simon & Schuster as part of our Paramount family for nearly 50 years, and we wish Jon and the entire team continued success as they begin their new chapter with KKR.”
Karp called the deal closing “an exciting moment for us — both a return to our roots as a standalone company and an opportunity for all of us to forge a new path together.” KKR’s resources would help make the publisher “an even stronger company and a more dynamic force in our industry,” he added.
“The company is in a strong position to capture the opportunity ahead, and we look forward to building on Simon & Schuster’s reputation for delivering engaging and compelling books to readers all over the world,” said Ted Oberwager, a partner at KKR who leads the gaming, entertainment, media and sports verticals within the firm’s Americas private equity business.
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