Making Book: Why Michael Milken Wants to Buy Simon & Schuster

By Solomon, Jolie | Newsweek, May 4, 1998 | Go to article overview

Making Book: Why Michael Milken Wants to Buy Simon & Schuster


Solomon, Jolie, Newsweek


TALK ABOUT AN EDITOR'S NIGHT- mare. The publishing world was already on edge about the shakeout in the industry and big corporations stalking literary prey. Then came news of the latest invader: Michael Milken.

The former junk-bond king and convicted felon is on a short list of bidders for Simon & Schuster, the prestigious publisher of books such as "Angela's Ashes." In an auction that could wind up this month, Viacom Inc., which owns MTV and Blockbuster Video, is expected to sell most or all of the publishing company for as much as $5 billion. Top bidders include Pearson PLC, owner of Penguin Putnam, KKR's Primedia, which owns New York Magazine and Channel One, and Milken's two-year-old company, Knowledge Universe LLC.

Founded by Milken and Oracle Corp. chief Larry Ellison, Knowledge Universe is a secretive private company based in the Silicon Valley. It's just the kind to stoke editors' fears. But KU may turn out to be a benign-if not downright attractive -suitor.

KU's business-educational and training products-sounds pretty dry. And its mission, "to improve human capital ... from cradle to post-retirement," as president Thomas Kalinske describes it, sounds like sanctimonious corporate jargon. But school enrollments are exploding, and interest in the education of both children and adults is at a new high. Milken, who has a passion on the topic, has predicted that this market will grow as quickly as health care. And even Milken's critics consider him one of the smartest prognosticators in business.

Indeed, Simon & Schuster is a hot property not because of its consumer-book division but because it's the nation's biggest publisher of educational books and curriculum software, under such imprints as Prentice Hall. …

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