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With the impending sale of the quirky and popular Workman Publishing to Hachette Book Group (HBG) in the States, the industry sees the move of another independent house into the wide arms of one of the Big Five (soon to be Big Four with Penguin Random House buying Simon & Schuster).
HMG’s parent company Lagardère, is paying $240 million for Workman, which had sales of $134 million last year. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of September. The Workman Publishing group comprises the imprints Workman, Algonquin, Algonquin Young Readers, Artisan, Storey Publishing, and Timber Press. It will be lead by Workman’s CEO Dan Reynolds, who will report to HBG CEO Michael Pietsch and will join HBG’s executive management board. Carolan Workman, executive chair and president of Workman will retire at the close of the transaction.
Workman is famous for a list full of surprises, of wit and flair, and often for titles that sell in non-traditional outlets. One of its popular items was the ‘Nuns on Holiday’ calendar, with pictures of nuns in locations like fairground dodgem cars. Pietsch said: “[Workman] has a unique culture.”
The acquisition marks the passing of an era: Carolan Workman, who ran the company that her husband Peter founded in 1968, was a constant presence at Frankfurt across the decades. It seems hard to imagine Frankfurt without Workman Publishing’s stand and Carolan dashing from shelf to shelf, singing the praises of a particular title and then rushing to pick up another that had just come into her head.
Pietsch said: “We have admired Workman for decades, marvelling at the spirit of innovation that drives their business, their strong brand franchises, their focus on the backlist, the work culture they have nurtured, and the outstanding reputation they have established among authors, agents, booksellers, and the media. I could not be more thrilled to welcome Workman’s incredibly talented employees and their brilliant authors and illustrators to Hachette. The Workman program will powerfully complement HBG’s existing publishing programs, and this acquisition will unlock new opportunities for growth in exciting directions.”
Workman added: “When Peter Workman launched our quirky little company over a half-century ago, it marked the beginning of a bold and joyful voyage. All these many years later, when I recognized that the time had come for Workman to have a new home, my first and foremost goal was to find a place where Workman’s unique culture could prosper long into the future, a place where we could nurture and protect our greatest assets: our authors, illustrators, and, most of all, our amazingly wonderful staff. I am so happy to be joining Hachette. They clearly respect not only what we are but who we are. I truly believe that our two companies will thrive together in this partnership.”