8 August 2023

KKR acquires book publisher Simon & Schuster

Paramount Global has entered into an agreement to sell Simon & Schuster PE's book publishing business to KKR for $1.62 billion. Upon completion of the acquisition, the company will operate independently as a standalone business and will be led by CEO Jonathan Karp.

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Simon & Schuster, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, is one of the largest and most respected publishers in the United States. With such notable authors as Stephen King, Colleen Hoover and Bob Woodward, it occupies a prominent position in the group known as the 'Big Five' New York publishers, alongside Penguin Random House, HarperCollins Publishing, Hachette Book Group and Macmillan. Simon & Schuster recorded impressive sales of $1.1 billion in 2022, and saw a 19% increase in sales in the first quarter of 2023.

PE firms have invested in the field of literature before. In 2019, Elliott Management bought Barnes & Noble bookstore for $683 million. In 2020, KKR acquired OverDrive, a digital reading platform for libraries and educational institutions, and this year also saw the divestiture of audiobook publisher RBMedia by H.I.G Capital, which KKR acquired in 2018.

Paramount has already struck a deal to sell Simon & Schuster to rival publisher Penguin Random House in 2020. However, this deal, worth USD 2.2 billion, was blocked by a federal judge who expressed concerns about possible restrictions on competition. As a result, Penguin was required to provide Paramount with a termination payment of USD 200 million.