On April 1, 2020 Bertelsmann completed its $675 million purchase of the last 25% of Penguin Random House owned by Pearson. Bertelsmann plans to simplify the board structure, and Pearson’s two seats on the board are expected to be replaced. PRH US CEO Madeline McIntosh wrote to staff with some rare good news: regular employees not otherwise eligible for bonuses will receive $856 following strong 2019 financial results.
HarperCollins UK is acquiring Egmont UK (and their branches in Poland and Germany), with the deal expected to close April 30, 2020. Egmont UK will continue to operate as a standalone division, and will retain its current offices. Managing director Cally Poplak is joining the HarperCollins UK executive committee, and will report to CEO Charlie Redmayne. He says, “The acquisition of Egmont will give us a huge opportunity to combine their existing profile and expertise in the UK and in Europe with the licensing experience and capability we already have in Suzanne Murphy’s Harper Collins US children’s business.”
The Thomas Dunne imprint (founded 1986) will close, and its eponymous publisher will leave the company he joined in 1971.
Macmillan was the first of the Big Five publishers to announce such extensive cost-cutting measures, though other publishers have announced similar steps: Houghton Mifflin reduced many employees to a four-day week, Scholastic announced a hiring freeze and furloughs, and Skyhorse laid off some employees.
UK publishing is also instituting extensive furloughs, though the government there is covering 80% of lost income through the end of May. Hachette UK, Harper UK, and Penguin Random House UK have all laid off part of their staff and are all covering the 20% of employee salaries not paid by the government.
Betsy Mitchell of Open Road Media reports that they have picked up several titles originally published or scheduled to be published by ChiZine Publications, including works by Ellen Datlow, Gemma Files, and Michael Rowe. Many authors left ChiZine following various allegations last year of late payments, non-payment, harassment of authors and staff, and other improprieties that led to ChiZine Publications founders and publishers Sandra Kasturi & Brett Savory stepping down from their publishing-related duties. Before that, Open Road was marketing some CZP backlist titles via their Ignition program, which offers digital publication support for other publishers (and boasts a catalog of some 14,000 titles, in addition to the 10,000 books on Open Road’s main list). Mitchell says, “We’re moving [the ChiZine titles] into production quickly so as to leave as brief a gap as possible in ebook availability, and will be bringing out most of the books in trade paper editions as well…. We’re not picking up the entire ChiZine list by any means – just the ones where we feel we can serve the authors well.” Open Road has seen a 50% increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2020 over 2019, as more readers turn to ebooks with so many bookstores closed.
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