News broke this morning – and probably broke the smart phones of many employees as well – that Harlequin Publishing is being sold by parent company Torstar to NewsCorp, owner of HarperCollins.
I can't even come up with a gif that expresses my WTF at that one! I don't think anyone saw that coming, eh?
I generally don't get excited about mergers and acquisitions and figure the merging and intermingling of publishing is a thing they do – much like my theory that there are really only six total people in publishing, the rest is done with mirrors, and everyone is required to switch places when someone rings a bell.
Torstar Corporation today announced it has entered into an agreement to sell all of the shares of Harlequin Enterprises Limited to News Corp. It will be run as a division of HarperCollins Publishers, a subsidiary of News Corp.
The purchase price is $455 million Canadian payable in cash at closing. Torstar intends to apply a portion of the net proceeds to debt reduction. The company will retain the remainder of the proceeds pending a thorough review of its future cash requirements and potential investment opportunities….
“Harlequin has been an important part of Torstar over the past 39 years and we are very proud of the global success it has achieved,” said David Holland, President and Chief Executive Officer of Torstar Corporation. “While making the decision to sell has been difficult, we are confident that this transaction represents excellent value for Torstar shareholders and it also further strengthens the financial position of Torstar. This sets the stage for the next chapter in the Harlequin story. HarperCollins is a very well-respected publisher with a tremendous track record of success and will be a good home for Harlequin. The sale will benefit Harlequin in the years ahead by providing the company, its terrific management team and its employees with exciting opportunities to continue to grow.”
“Harlequin has built one of the largest and most widely recognized consumer brands in publishing with a highly focused publishing program for women,” said Brian Murray, President and CEO of HarperCollins. “We are thrilled to welcome Harlequin's management and staff in Toronto and around the world to the HarperCollins family. The Harlequin name and rich heritage will be preserved independently, with the aim to leverage capabilities to bring the book-reading public more choices. Harlequin's business has grown internationally, and will give HarperCollins an immediate foothold in 11 new countries from which we can expand into dozens of foreign languages for authors who choose to work with us globally.”
HarperCollins has indicated that Harlequin will remain headquartered in Toronto, as will the offices of HarperCollins Canada.
“We are excited to be joining HarperCollins Publishers,” said Craig Swinwood, Publisher and CEO of Harlequin. “This transaction will allow Harlequin to continue to operate as a distinct and successful brand within a larger publishing company. We're excited to be able to take full advantage of HarperCollins' robust resources, scale and capabilities to expand the reach of our books and grow our business.”
Ok, first, Craig Swinwood didn't use the word “thrilled,” which is a requirement in any and all press releases from romance publishing. If the word “thrilled” isn't used, it doesn't seem real!
I can't say whether this is “good” or “bad” – right now, I'm stuck on “WTF!” But of course, there are people involved who have spreadsheets that we don't have. And also, this is a truly personal feeling, I would not have predicted Harlequin pairing up with Rupert Murdoch, he of Fox News, phone hacking, and whatall. Harlequin + Cosmo I understood. Harlequin + Rupert Murdoch? That's unexpected.
ETA: Kate Rados has visually illustrated a great deal of the WTF:
As Jane Litte said on Twitter (and I'm sorry I can't link to the tweet itself – the new Twitter layout is confounding me) this could be like Random House + Penguin: big news but nothing majorly OMG disruptive (aside from those whose jobs were made redundant, which is usually a fallout of mergers between like companies, and which sucks entirely for those involved).
But there are also significant corporate culture and publishing policy differences as well. As @Tuphlos and others pointed out:
Harlequin e-books have been available to libraries, fair pricing, NO LOAN RESTRICTIONS.
— Robin Bradford (@Tuphlos) May 2, 2014
Harlequin and HarperCollins have very different approaches to readership, as well. Also interesting: mergers like this, especially across national borders and involving two sets of corporate law take a long ass time, so this has been in the works for awhile – and most everyone seems as surprised as I am. Wow.
As I said on Twitter, I feel like I'm watching a good friend get engaged to a really, really shitty guy. Harlequin + Rupert Murdoch is not the pairing I would have ever predicted. But who knows? This could turn out to be excellent. I do think it's telling that the reaction I've seen immediately following “WTF” is, as Jane called it, “dismay.”
I'm still searching for an adequate gif. I don't think there is one.
What's your reaction?