Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Part II: More About Leveraging in Publisher Acquisitions

After I ran an item yesterday about the acquisition freeze at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, in which Publishers Weekly used the term “leveraged”, a related news item was brought to my attention. At a panel conducted at last October’s Frankfurt Book Fair, Lagardere Publishing’s Arnaud Nourry observed, “within the last two or three years some major publishing companies, particularly in education, have been acquired by highly-leveraged private equity funds…. I’m sure that within the next months some of these companies will have to sell some of the assets back…”

In light of yesterday’s news, Nourry’s prescience is quite remarkable.

Or is it more than prescience? Nourry, Chairman and CEO of Hachette Book Group, which owns Little, Brown and Grand Central among other holdings, finished the above sentence thus: “…and we’ll be there…to make these acquisitions.” If he, and we, are talking about the same highly leveraged major educational publishing company, he may have been hinting that he’s got his eye on Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Is there a white knight in the offing? Watch this page…

Incidentally, Nourry also had this to say on that same panel: “I don’t see the banks pushing Borders into bankruptcy in the short term, and I’m rather confident about the next six or nine months for these big accounts.”

From his lips to God’s ear.



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