November 21, 2012

News Corp. in talks to acquire Simon & Schuster?


Why is this man smiling?

Rupert Murdoch is in the mood to buy things.

We had a preview last month when Murdoch, ever the prankster, tried to buy Penguin in cash in the latter days of the Random HousePenguin merger negotiations. It was announced yesterday in the New York Times that News Corp. would be buying YES Network, the Yankees’ sports broadcaster. It seems he can’t stop, won’t stop.

Indeed, on the same day that two of his British newspaper lieutenants are accused of briberyChristopher S. Stewart and John Jannarone report in the (Murdoch owned) Wall Street Journal that News Corp, owner of Harper Collins, has expressed interest in acquiring Simon & Schuster from CBS Corp. The talks are described as “preliminary.”

Stewart and Jannarone suggest that the new News Corp publishing entity — in the process of being separated from the Twentieth Century Fox film studio and Fox News into its own unit — will have money to burn in acquisitions. The group is likely to “to pursue newspapers as well as to invest in its nascent education business [something everyone’s interested in suddenly], according to a person familiar with the company’s thinking.”

“News Corp. is in the process of splitting into two listed companies, one containing its entertainment assets such as Twentieth Century Fox film studio and Fox News cable channel, the other housing publishing assets including the Journal and HarperCollins. While HarperCollins is relatively small in the scheme of the current company, it could account for more than a fifth of the new publishing company’s operating income for the fiscal year ending in June 2013, Nomura Securities estimates.”

Whether these talks will in fact add up to a merger of another two of the “Big Six” publishers, or whether this news will change the story and distract us from the ongoing PR disaster that is Murdoch’s UK newspaper interests, remains to be seen.

Coming so soon after the Random House and Penguin merger however, one wonders if this trend continues, what will the world’s only remaining publisher publish? Endless iterations of Fifty Shades of GreyHow to Tap Phones and Influence People?



Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.