ViacomCBS sells Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for $2 billion – CNBC

Simon & Schuster display at the London Book Fair at Kensington Olympia on the 12th March 2019 in London.

Sam Mellish | In Pictures | Getty Images

ViacomCBS announced Wednesday that it would sell publishing company Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, in a deal worth nearly $2.18 billion

The transaction is expected to close in 2021.

The deal comes after ViacomCBS put the global publisher up for auction, a move it made to divest non-core assets from its company. Proceeds from the deal will be put toward ViacomCBS’s streaming business, fund its dividend and pay down debt. The company also recently sold CNET for $500 million as part of this strategy.

Steaming has become a particularly important avenue for media companies as coronavirus cases have risen and traditional entertainment outlets like movie theaters and theme parks are largely closed to the public or viewed as unsafe destinations.

With Simon & Schuster as part of the company, Bertelsmann’s publishing empire will account for about a third of all books sold in the U.S. The deal would put some of the world’s bestselling authors including John Grisham, Bob Woodward, Sandra Brown and Stephen King under the same corporate umbrella.

Simon & Schuster will continue to be managed as a separate publishing unit under Penguin Random House. Jonathan Karp, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, alongside Dennis Eulau, who acts as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the company, will continue to helm the publishing company.

The deal could draw attention from the U.S. Justice Department, as the combined shares of Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House are large enough to dredge up antitrust concerns.

Book sales have been particularly robust this year as the coronavirus pandemic has limited other entertainment options. There is also a strong interest in political memoirs and books on social justice. In the nine-month period end Oct. 3, print book sales rose 6.4% from the prior year according to data from NPD BookScan.

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