Two events in global publishing emphasise the importance of size to publishers in a world increasingly dominated by ‘GAFMA’ (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple). Firstly, Arnaud Nourry has stepped down from his position as chairman and CEO of Hachette Livre, apparently angered at plans by parent company Lagardère to break up the company; and secondly HarperCollins’ owner News Corp has announced it is acquiring the consumer division of US publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH).
Nourry’s departure – some say he was limogé (fired) – has taken global publishing by surprise. Nourry has been a fixed figure in global publishing for many years, having joined Hachette in 2003. A devout internationalist, the group generates 70% of its sales abroad and Nourry told Le Monde recently that his aim to was make Hachette “the most attractive international publishing group”.
In the same interview he reiterated his opposition to Hachette being carved up by the shareholders of parent company Lagardère. It has been reported that members of the Lagardère were negotiating for rival group Vivendi to take Hachette’s overseas publishing interests. He stressed that the group’s size had enabled it to fight back against Google and Amazon in various legal battles and that “everyone was happy that we had the international dimension” to be able do so. The aim was for Hachette to remain in the Lagardère group, but “if that couldn’t be the case… I would be very attentive to ensuring that the culture and integrity of the group be respected.”
At News Corp CEO Robert Thomson said its acquisition of HMH’s consumer division – for $349m – was crucial “in an era in which emerging monopolies threaten the creative marketplace”.
Brian Murray, president and CEO of HarperCollins Publishers, added: “Combining HMH Books & Media’s strong catalogue with HarperCollins’ global platform will allow for increased investment in HMH Books & Media’s trade programmes and we expect faster growth of the combined companies at a time of rapid growth in book consumption. Joining HMH Books & Media’s media productions team and the HarperCollins Children’s global catalogue will open up new animation and gaming opportunities as we look to accelerate the expansion of our IP across multiple formats.”