German media giant buys Random House

AFTER signalling for months that it was preparing to bolster its position in book publishing, the Germany-based Bertelsmann group yesterday showed its cards by announcing the purchase of Random House in New York.

Bertelsmann said it was buying Random House and all of its imprints, which include Knopf and Ballantine, which will be folded into its existing publisher, Bantam Doubleday Bell. Bertelsmann bought Doubleday and its Dell imprint in 1986.

It declined to reveal the price, disclosed no financial details of the deal and said the new company would not be listed on the stock exchange.

The new entity will use the Random House name and will be headed by Albert Vitale, the current chairman of Random House. Until four months ago, when he resigned in a blitz of publicity, the president of Random House was Britain's Harold Evans. He was replaced by Ann Godoff.

The transaction could spell a new period of consolidation in the book publishing industry. In the US especially, publishers have suffered recently from declining sales and the increasing squeeze on book-cover prices exerted by the newly-emergent book super-chains, such as Barnes & Noble.

It had been speculated that Bertelsmann had its eyes alternatively either on HarperCollins, the book unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, which was recently at the centre of the Chris Patten affair, or Simon & Schuster, which is owned by Viacom.

Even before yesterday, Bertelsmann was the world's third-largest media conglomerate after Disney and Time Warner. Random House, founded in 1926 and owned by Advance Publications, is America's largest general trade publisher. Its big-name authors include Norman Mailer, Michael Crichton and the Pope.

The deal was being seen as boost to Bertelsmann's BooksOnline venture, which it launched last month in direct competition with the two American online bookselling websites from and Barnes & Noble. Random House will give BooksOnline a fat new inventory of titles.

Headed by the 70-year-old SI Newhouse, Advance is expected to use the sale of Random House to reinforce its major magazine, newspaper and cable television interests. The privately held company is best-known as the owner of Conde Nast magazines, publisher of Vanity Fair and GQ, as well as the New Yorker, which is edited by Mr Evans' wife, Tina Brown.

The fortunes of Conde Nast, headed by Steve Florio, are believed to have improved after a plunge into the red in the early 1990's. Some observers estimate that profits at the group are at about $100m (pounds 61m) on revenues of $900m. While advertising and circulation at the New Yorker have both seen improvements under Ms Brown, the magazine is thought still to be losing money.

"Random House is the most prominent and prestigious publishing house in the world," Mr Newhouse said yesterday. "I am confident that it will grow and prosper under Bertelsmann's future leadership".

Mark Woessner, the chairman of Bertelsmann, said that annual sales of the new publishing unit would be $1.4bn to $1.6bn. "Ever since we bought the US publisher Bantam Books in 1977 it was a strategic goal with the highest priority to strengthen the core book business," he said.

Bertelsmann is the owner of a glitzy new office tower on New York's newly- desirable Times Square, which has a Richard Branson Virgin Megastore as one of its tenants on street level. The company's activities include huge printing operations, book publishing and over 16 million book club members, music recording and publishing, the CLT-Ufa television broadcasting group and an Internet alliance with America Online.

Despite the company's push since the 1980s into television and online media, Mr Woessner has often stressed that the company would never depart from its publishing roots, formed in 1835 when Carl Bertelsmann began publishing Lutheran bibles.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Graduate Recruitment Resourcers - Banking Technologies

£18000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: Huxley Associates are looking...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform