Springer and Macmillan Poised to Merge

By Ojala, Marydee | Information Today, March 2015 | Go to article overview

Springer and Macmillan Poised to Merge


Ojala, Marydee, Information Today


* On Jan. 15, 2015, there was a disruption in the field of academic scientific publishing. The privately held Holtzbrinck Publishing Group and private equity firm BC Partners (BCP) announced a proposed merger of the majority of Macmillan Science and Education with all of Springer Science+Business Media, including BioMed Central, SpringerOpen, Adis, and Apress.

Included in the deal, from the Macmillan side, are Nature Publishing Group (Nature and Scientific American), Palgrave Macmillan, and Macmillan Education. Excluded are Macmillan Publishers and J.B. Metzler; Macmillan's higher education book imprints (Bedford/St Martin's, W.H. Freeman & Co., and Worth Publishers); Holtzbrinck Ventures; Holtzbrinck Digital, Information and Services; Macmillan New Ventures; Digital Science; and Digital Education. If approved by regulatory bodies, which is expected in the first half of 2015, the new company will have 13,000 employees and sales of about euro1.5 billion (about $1.7 billion).

The resulting company will be jointly controlled by Holtzbrinck, with a 53% share, and by funds advised by BCP for the remaining 47%. Derk Haank, currently Springer's CEO, will be CEO, while Annette Thomas, currently Macmillan Science and Education's CEO, will become chief science officer. Rounding out the management team will be Martin Mos as COO and Ulrich Vest as CFO. The supervisory board will be split evenly between representatives from Holtzbrinck and BCP: Stefan von Holtzbrinck (chairman of Holtzbrinck), Ewald Walgenbach (vice chairman of BCP), Michael Brockhaus and Jens Schwanewedel from Holtzbrinck, and Hans Haderer and Christian Mogge from BCP.

Holtzbrinck, still owned and managed by the Holtzbrinck family, bought 70% of Macmillan in 1997 and the remaining 30% in 1999. In the U.S., the Macmillan name was owned by Pearson until Holtzbrinck bought that in 2001. Springer has a more tangled ownership history. Private equity firms Candover and Cinven bought Springer from Bertlesmann, calling it Bertlesmann Springer, in 2003. It was renamed Springer Science+Business Media when Candover and Cinven merged it with Kluwer Academic Publishing in 2004, and it was sold to private equity firms EQT and GIC in 2009. BCP acquired it in 2013.

Merger Strengths and Weaknesses

The two sides in the deal each bring strengths and weaknesses. Running the publication numbers, Springer has a distinct edge. It publishes 2,987 journal titles compared to Macmillan's 160. However, the prestige factor of Macmillan's Nature, Scientific American, and Palgrave titles balances the scale. Springer also has a presence in the book publishing market, with more than 8,000 titles to its credit, and its SpringerLink platform is widely used in academic libraries.

Springer's emphasis on open access (OA) may open up more of Macmillan, particularly in light of the investment Nature Publishing Group has with Swiss OA publisher Frontiers. The combined group is likely to pay great attention to opening up access to its publications, as this is a strong trend in STM publishing.

Not having Macmillan's Digital Science included in the merger is interesting. This portfolio of companies, including Altmetric, BioRAFT, figshare, Labguru, ReadCube, and Symplectic, among others, is free to develop products outside the sphere of the combined company. Whether it will have unrestricted access to Macmillan's Nature Publishing Group publications and gain access to Springer publications will be determined later. …

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