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Paramount sells Simon & Schuster to private investment firm

A book published by Simon & Schuster is displayed on July 30, 2022, in Tigard, Ore.
Jenny Kane
A book published by Simon & Schuster is displayed on July 30, 2022, in Tigard, Ore.

Updated August 7, 2023 at 6:21 PM ET

Simon & Schuster has been acquired by private investment firm KKR for $1.62 billion, according to a joint statement between the firm and the publishing giant's parent company, Paramount Global.

The deal will turn Simon & Schuster into a "standalone private company and will continue to be led by Jonathan Karp, President and CEO and Dennis Eulau, COO and CFO of Simon & Schuster," the statement continues.

The publishing industry is dominated by a handful of mega-corporations that, over the decades, have acquired smaller imprints.

Last year, the Department of Justice blocked Penguin Random House from acquiring Simon & Schuster for $2.2 billion.

"The proposed merger would have reduced competition, decreased author compensation, diminished the breadth, depth, and diversity of our stories and ideas, and ultimately impoverished our democracy," Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division said in a statement at the time.

Jim Milliot, editorial director of Publisher's Weekly, does not think the government will have the same antitrust concerns this time around.

"One reason it was blocked was because it would've shrunk the big five publishers down to four, and it would've made Penguin Random House much bigger than any of its competitors," he tells NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, "KKR doesn't own another book publisher."

Milliot believes Simon & Schuster will fare better as a standalone company. "Paramount wasn't all that interested in staying in the publishing industry," he notes. "They hadn't really made any outside acquisitions."

In addition to Simon & Schuster, Paramount Global's portfolio includes CBS, Showtime Networks, Nickelodeon, MTV and a vast film and TV collection. As the media industry grapples with changing consumer habits, a fickle ad market and the Hollywood writers and actors strikes, the sale to KKR will help Paramount Global pay down debt.

Bob Bakish, President and CEO of Paramount Global, writes, "The proceeds will give Paramount additional financial flexibility and greater ability to create long-term value for shareholders, while also delivering our balance sheet."

This story was edited by Ciera Crawford.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.