Tuesday 17 November 2020 2:20 pm

Balancing the books: Murdoch’s News Corp tables bid for Simon & Schuster

Rupert Murdoch’s media empire is said to have tabled a bid for Simon & Schuster, the publishing giant behind best-selling authors including Stephen King and Dan Brown.

Simon & Schuster was put up for sale by its owner, US media conglomerate Viacom CBS, following a strategic review in March.

Read more: Bookshop.org: How a ‘scrappy’ online bookseller is trying to take on Amazon

Murdoch’s News Corp has now entered the bidding war as it looks to beef up its presence in the publishing sector, the New York Times reported.

News Corp, the ultimate owner of Fox Corporation and UK newspaper titles The Times and The Sun, joins Penguin Random House as a frontrunner to take over the publisher.

Penguin Random House, which is the largest book publisher in the US, is owned by German media group Bertelsmann.

At least one of the bids is in excess of $1.7bn (£1.3bn), well above the minimum price set by Viacom CBS, according to the report.

The auction is also said to have attracted interest from financial firms, though these are no longer in the running. Final bids are due next week, with Viacom CBS expected to announce a winner shortly after that.

A successful bid by News Corp would mark a major expansion of the group’s publishing assets. Murdoch’s media empire already owns Harper Collins, whose authors include Hilary Mantel and Harper Lee.

It would also herald a further reshaping of the group following the $71bn sale of its Fox entertainment assets to Disney and Sky’s takeover by Comcast.

Read more: Bloomsbury profit surges on lockdown reading boom

A new chapter for publishing

Simon & Schuster, which is one of the US’s so-called Big Five publishers, is an attractive target for buyers.

The company, which was founded in 1924 as a crossword publisher, boasts a raft of big-name contemporary authors.

The publisher’s back catalogue includes classic best-sellers including Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, as well as authors such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

More recently, Simon & Schuster has been behind a series of blockbuster hits about the Trump administration, including Rage by Bob Woodward, John Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened and Too Much and Never Enough, an explosive expose by his niece Mary L. Trump.

The sale comes amid a wave of consolidation in the industry as aggressive cost cutting caused by the rise of Amazon has forced publishers to look to scale.

Penguin and Random House merged in 2013 following a merger between Bertelsmann and UK media group Pearson. French publishing giant Hachette acquired Perseus in 2016, while News Corp snapped up romance publisher Harlequin.