Huge German Publisher Purchases Random House

By Fisher, Eric | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), March 24, 1998 | Go to article overview

Huge German Publisher Purchases Random House


Fisher, Eric, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


German media giant Bertelsmann AG shook up the book-publishing industry yesterday by buying Random House Inc., making it the world's largest publisher of English-language general-interest books.

Bertelsmann paid Advance Publications an estimated $1.1 billion for Random House, which publishes Dr. Seuss, Michael Crichton and Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, and owns several other publishing houses including the popular Fodor's Travel Publications.

The two privately held companies did not disclose the deal's terms. But analysts estimated Bertelsmann paid 1.3 to 1.5 times Random House's annual sales, which Bertelsmann said were $870 million last year.

The Guetersloh, Germany-based Bertelsmann, which owns two major record labels and has interests in virtually every other mass medium in both the United States and Europe, already was a force in U.S. book publishing. It owns Bantam Doubleday Dell Publications, which publishes books by such best-sellers as John Grisham, Maya Angelou and Dean Koontz.

Now the third-largest media company behind Time Warner Inc. and Walt Disney Co., Bertelsmann will merge Bantam into Random House and keep the Random House name.

"Our new company will draw and build upon the strengths of two great publishing traditions . . with an unprecedented diversity of publishing choices," said Peter Olson, chairman of Bertelsmann Book Group North America who will head the new Random House.

"It looks like Bertelsmann is becoming the 500-pound gorilla in book publishing," said Ed Atorino, analyst with Wasserstein Perella Securities in New York.

The Random House purchase also will give Bertelsmann thousands of new titles for its forthcoming BooksOnline, an Internet bookstore intended to compete with amazon.com and Barnes & Noble's on-line site.

The combination of such a large stable of publishers under one roof and an expected third major on-line bookseller presents yet another challenge to small, local bookstores. …

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