ViacomCBS agrees to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House
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ViacomCBS will sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House, the nation’s largest publisher, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Simon & Schuster, founded in 1924, publishes best-selling authors such as Stephen King, Bob Woodward and Doris Kearns Goodwin. It was put up for sale in March as the coronavirus pandemic forced a wave of bookstore closures, and CEO Carolyn Reidy died two months later.

The company took in $649 million in revenue as of September, increasing pre-tax profits 6 percent, according to the Times.  

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ViacomCBS reportedly received several inquiries, including from NewsCorp and Bertelsmann, the German conglomerate that owns Penguin Random House. The deal with Penguin Random House would leave Reidy's  successor, Jonathan Karp, in his position, as well as chief operating officer Dennis Eulau.

The sale raises potential antitrust implications, the Times notes, adding that the the creation of such a “mega-publisher” would follow a decade of consolidation in the industry, including the Penguin/Random House merger in 2013 and News Corp.'s 2014 purchase of romance imprint Harlequin.

The level of industry consolidation could leave agents and authors with fewer options and publishers less willing to take chances on unproven writers, literary agent David Kuhn told the Times.

“There are projects that would have sold for $150,000 years ago that might not sell at all now to the big five, whereas the book that would have sold for $500,000 might go for a million,” he said. “They would rather go in bigger for the thing that they have the most consensus on.”

“For certain books, there will be only four possible customers, down from five,” added Ideal Logical Company founder and CEO Mike Shatzkin. “It’s another sign of how the trade publishing ecosystem has weakened.”