Bertelsmann snaps up Simon & Schuster

图书装订 Book-binding-书迷号

IN THE DAYS before Thanksgiving two top contenders emerged for Simon & Schuster, the fifth-biggest English-language book publisher by revenues, from ViacomCBS, an American media group. On November 25th Bertelsmann gained the upper hand. With an offer of $2.2bn the German parent of Penguin Random House (PRH), the largest publisher by a Tolstoyan margin, outbid News Corp, Rupert Murdoch’s media group, whose catalogue contains HarperCollins, ranked third (see chart).
感恩节前夕,意欲收购美国媒体集团ViacomCBS旗下全球第五大(以营收计)英语图书出版商西蒙与舒斯特(Simon & Schuster)的两大竞争者浮现。11月25日,贝塔斯曼集团(Bertelsmann)占得上风。它是营收遥遥领先的全球最大出版商企鹅兰登书屋(Penguin Random House)的德国母公司,出价22亿美元,高于默多克的媒体集团新闻集团(News Corp)的出价。新闻集团旗下拥有排名第三的出版商哈珀·柯林斯(HarperCollins)。

A merger with Simon & Schuster would give PRH almost one-third of English-language book sales. That is more than double the market share of its closest rival, Hachette Livre, owned by Lagardère, an ailing French conglomerate. (Vivendi, a French group that is Lagardère’s biggest shareholder, also briefly vied for Simon & Schuster.) In America the merged biblio-behemoth would control 70% of the market for literary fiction.
与西蒙与舒斯特合并将使企鹅兰登占到全球英语图书销量的近三分之一。这是紧随其后的竞争对手阿歇特出版公司(Hachette Livre)市场份额的两倍多,后者的母公司为陷入困境的法国企业集团拉加代尔(Lagardère)。拉加代尔最大的股东法国集团维旺迪(Vivendi)也曾一度参与争夺西蒙与舒斯特。在美国,合并后的这个图书出版巨兽将控制虚构类文学作品市场70%的份额。

Authors and agents worry that the enlarged PRH may become ever more dominant in distribution—and that market concentration could lead to an excessive focus on bestsellers such as Michelle Obama’s memoir of her time as America’s first lady (which was published by a PRH subsidiary) at the expense of niche titles that are no less worthy. Robert Thomson, News Corp’s boss, is certain, for his part, that the Bertelsmann deal will alert trustbusters. Earlier this year America’s Department of Justice thwarted a merger of Cengage and McGraw-Hill, two publishers of educational books. Any delay would be bad news for ViacomCBS, which needs the money badly for investments in video-streaming, where it lags behind rivals such as Netflix, Disney or AT&T, a telecoms giant that owns HBO.
作家和代理商们担心,扩张后的企鹅兰登可能会日益主导图书分销,而市场高度集中可能会导致过分重视畅销书,比如米歇尔·奥巴马对自己身为美国第一夫人时期的回忆录(由企鹅兰登的子公司出版),而忽略同样有价值的小众书作。新闻集团的老板罗伯特·汤姆森(Robert Thomson)就深信,贝塔斯曼的这宗收购将惊动反垄断机构。今年早前,美国司法部阻止了两家教育图书出版商圣智(Cengage)和麦格劳希尔(McGraw-Hill)的合并。此次收购的任何延误对ViacomCBS来说都是坏消息,因为它迫切需要资金投资视频流媒体业务。ViacomCBS在这方面落后于奈飞(Netflix)、迪士尼或拥有HBO的电信巨头AT&T等竞争对手。

Thomas Rabe, Bertelsmann’s boss, says he is confident that regulators in America and other countries will bless the deal. They rarely block mergers that only reduce the number of big players from five to four. The last big union, Bertelsmann’s takeover in 2013 of Penguin, did not fall foul of antitrust guardians. Moreover, the leading five have lost market share in recent years to smaller rivals, not to mention Amazon, which these days not only sells books (as well as just about everything else) but also publishes them.
贝塔斯曼的老板托马斯·拉贝(Thomas Rabe)表示,他相信美国和其他国家的监管机构会支持这宗收购。它们很少会阻止那种只是把某个市场上的大公司数量从五个减少到四个的并购。上一次大型收购,也就是贝塔斯曼在2013年收购企鹅集团,并未受到反垄断监管机构的阻拦。而且五大出版集团近些年也被较小的竞争对手夺去了部分市场份额,被亚马逊抢走的份额就更不用说了。亚马逊现在不仅销售图书(以及其他几乎一切商品),还出版图书。

That still leaves the question of whether the deal is a good one for Bertelsmann. The price was heftier than even ViacomCBS expected. Covid-19 initially hurt book sales, as it did other discretionary spending. “The first five weeks [of the pandemic] were very tough,” admits Brian Murray, chief executive of HarperCollins.
但仍然有个问题——这对贝塔斯曼而言是否算一宗好交易。它的出价甚至比ViacomCBS期望的还要高。和其他非必要消费品一样,图书的销售最初也受到了新冠疫情的打击。“(疫情的)头五周非常艰难。” 哈珀·柯林斯的首席执行官布莱恩·默里(Brian Murray)承认。

But with their pantries full, self-isolators turned to fiction for escapism and edification. “People are always predicting the decline of book publishing, but it has actually been very resilient,” says David Steinberger, chief executive of Arcadia Publishing, a publisher of history books.
但随着隔离在家的人们囤足了食品,他们又转向小说以逃避现实和寻求启迪。“人们一直预测图书出版会走下坡路,但它实际上却很坚韧。”历史书籍出版商阿卡迪亚出版公司(Arcadia Publishing)的首席执行官戴维·斯坦伯格(David Steinberger)说。

And Simon & Schuster is a prestigious prize. It was originally set up in 1924 to publish crosswords, but went on to represent Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tom Wolfe. This year it made waves with the publication of “Rage”, a ferocious account of Donald Trump’s White House by Bob Woodward, a far-famed journalist, as well as a tell-all memoir by the president’s niece, a psychologist.
而西蒙与舒斯特这个竞逐目标享有盛名。这家公司成立于1924年,最初的业务是出版填字游戏,后来出版了欧内斯特·海明威、斯科特·菲茨杰拉德和汤姆·沃尔夫的作品。今年它出版了著名记者鲍勃·伍德沃德(Bob Woodward)激烈展现特朗普主政的白宫的《愤怒》(Rage)和特朗普的心理学家侄女所写的爆料回忆录,引起轰动。

Nabbing Simon & Schuster is Bertelsmann’s second coup in the space of a week. On November 17th American and Canadian readers set a record for first-day sales, snapping up 890,000 copies of a new memoir by Mrs Obama’s husband, also published by a PRH subsidiary. ■