Paramount Puts Stephen King Publisher Simon & Schuster Back Up for Sale

The book publisher is back on the block after a $2.2 billion deal with Penguin collapsed in November

Simon & Schuster
Paramount Global is selling its book division.

Months after its plans to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House collapsed, Paramount Global again has the publishing house up for sale, according to a report.

The media conglomerate is courting private equity firms as potential buyers of the No. 3 publishing house in the U.S., Reuters reported. It’s working with a financial advisor, and putting the value of the company between $2 billion and $2.5 billion.

The process was at an early stage and a deal is not certain, the report said.

That would be in line with the $2.2 billion, Paramount, then known as Viacom CBS, had agreed to sell Simon and Schuster for in November 2020 to Penguin Random House for $2.2 billion.

But the plan, which would have combined the No. 1 and No. 3 U.S. book publishers, was blocked by a federal judge on Oct. 31, who found that merging the two companies would “substantially lessen competition” in the market.

Penguin Random House tried to convince Simon & Schuster to fight the decision, but its parent Paramount backed off, and instead sought a $200 million termination fee in the wake of the failed deal.

Simon & Schuster did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for confirmation on the new effort to unload the publishing house, which includes Stephen King, Bob Woodward, and the current best selling author, Colleen Hoover, who has the Nos. 1 and 2 slots on the New York Times Best Sellers list.

King had testified against the merger with Penguinn.

Paramount is reportedly aiming for a private equity buyout in order to avoid the antitrust issues that ultimately nixed the Penguin Random House deal. That likey means that rivals like HarperCollins, which is owned by News Corp., or European publishers like Hachette, owned by Vivendi-Lagardère, would make a bid for Simon and Schuster, sources told Reuters. Both companies had expressed interest prior to the announcement of the Penguin Random House deal.

In November, after the deal fell apart, President Jonathan Karp said in a memo to staff that Simon & Schuster “has never been more profitable and valuable than it is today.”

That could be one reason that the price tag remains as high as it is.

Paramount said in a regulatory filing on Nov. 21 that “Simon & Schuster remains a non-core asset to Paramount, as was determined in early 2020 when Paramount conducted a strategic review of its assets.”

The explanation lay in that while “Simon & Schuster is a highly valuable business with a recent record of strong performance; however, it is not video-based and therefore does not fit strategically within Paramount’s broader portfolio,” the filing said.

Paramount Global shares dipped 4 cents to $22.27 in morning trading. The stock is up about 43% since it hit its 52-week low of $15.29 on Oct. 31 following the Penguin deal decision.