Cover Stories: Methuen; Bertelsmann; Headline

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An era of publishing history has come to an end with the sale by Methuen of its drama list to Bloomsbury's A&C Black division for £2.35m. The list was launched by Algernon Methuen in 1908 with Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. It was John Cullen, who presided over the Methuen list for 30 years, who forged its connection to the theatre, beginning with Jean Anouilh's Antigone, which he'd seen in newly liberated Paris. He went on to publish plays by Brecht, Sartre and Shelagh Delaney. It was Geoffrey Strachan who presided over its flowering, with authors such as Brenton, Hare, Pinter, Frayn and Mamet. Bloomsbury's chairman and CEO, Nigel Newton, promised to "exploit its list fully" and to develop new talent, just as Methuen has always done. Let's hope the promise is kept.

* Bertelsmann, owner of Random House, Transworld and the BMG record label, has put an end to speculation that it would end the year as a publicly traded company when it bought back the 25 per cent share owned by Groupe Bruxelles Lambert for €4.5bn - easy-peasy, when your bottom line is swollen by Dan Brown. The purchase puts the company back entirely in family control.

* Headline, so resolutely commercial, has signed a novel by a young Iranian woman now living in the US, where the book was acquired for a six-figure sum. Anita Amirrezvani returned to Iran several times while researching The Blood of Flowers. And John Murray has acquired a memoir from another Iranian émigrée, Marina Nemat, who was sentenced to death during the revolution and escaped with the help of a prison guard - on condition she marry him.

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