Publishing News Roundup

French company Vivendi has purchased 10.6% of stock in multimedia giant Lagardere (parent company of Hachette, and owner of the largest publisher in France). Vivendi owns France’s second-biggest publisher, Editis. Lagardere’s board is in a struggle with one of their major shareholders, hedge fund Amber Capital, which wants to replace current Lagardere directors and leadership as ‘‘a referendum on the management of the last seventeen years.’’ Vivendi chairman Vincent Bollore will reportedly lend his support to the current Lagardere directors. Company head Arnaud Lagardere and Patrick Valroff of the Lagardere board sent a share- holder letter decrying Amber Capital’s ‘‘radical, unsettling and uncertain proposal…. We regret that Amber Capital has chosen to step up its campaign in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, causing additional uncertainty, when all of the Group’s efforts should be focused on the management of this unprecedented crisis. However, we remain firmly committed to shareholder dialogue and are always open to constructive proposals from them.’’

Walker Books Group, which includes US children’s publisher Candlewick Press, sold to private equity firm Trustbridge Global Media. Walker was previously employee- and author-owned, with ownership shared by over 75 employees and 150 writers and illustrators. Managing director Karen Lotz said, ‘‘For the past 40 years, Walker has charted an independent path into markets around the world under the twin guiding lights of quality and a commitment to the primacy of reading in the lives of children and young adults. Now we are looking forward to an exciting new chapter as part of the Trustbridge family.’’ Trustbridge says it will preserve ‘‘the culture of the company as an independent and creatively-led organization.’’

Major UK book wholesaler Bertrams and its subsidiaries have been put up for sale via restructuring firm Middleton Barton Valuation. Bertrams currently owes tens of millions of pounds to UK publishers, and was reportedly on the verge of declaring bankruptcy, something a sale could help avoid. Parent company Aurelius has been selling off assets, including online bookstore Wordery (purchased by Elliott Advisors) and other subsidiaries.

Kensington will no longer publish traditional mass-market paperbacks sized 4.25’’ x 6.87’’. Beginning on September 29, 2020, their paperbacks will be 4.75’’ by 7’’ – the so-called ‘‘mass max’’ format. Books priced at $7.99 will rise to $8.99, but those priced at $9.99 will remain unchanged. CEO Steven Zacaharius explained, ‘‘Not only does the Mass Max format allow for larger, easier-to-read font and spacing, but it also means people who like to save their books don’t have to worry as much about breaking the spine while reading them. We feel this upgrade offers readers a better experience, better value, and an attractive product that looks more like a small, gift-sized trade paperback.’’

Diamond Comics Distributors announced plans to begin distributing new, weekly product on May 20, 2020, with various caveats about the unpredictability of the current situation. ‘‘We are providing this target date to allow you as much time as possible to communicate with your customers and gather the information you need to order appropriately for your store and customer base.’’ Their press release says, ‘‘This period has been difficult for everyone, particularly our retailer partners on the front lines. We appreciate your support and the many positive messages we have received as we work through business and safety concerns. We are heartened by the many examples of your ingenuity and creativity as you find ways to serve your customers that are new.’’

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