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Britain’s competition watchdog is investigating whether Penguin Random House’s $2.2 billion takeover of Simon & Schuster may hurt competition, it said amid concerns that the deal could damage the publishing industry.
The deal is the second major move by Bertelsmann Chief Executive Thomas Rabe to expand the 185-year-old publisher after it took full control of Penguin Random House, the world’s biggest bookseller, from Pearson last year.
He had said the merged entity would have a U.S. market share of less than 20%, making the transaction “approvable”.
News Corp CEO Robert Thomson had criticised the deal, saying Bertelsmann was “buying market dominance as a book behemoth” and that it had an “anti-market logic”. It is now the world’s biggest trade publisher, with more than 15,000 new publications and over 600 million books sold a year.
The Authors Guild said last year the deal would mean fewer competing bidders for manuscripts and lower pay, urging the U.S. Department of Justice to challenge it as well as refuse to allow further deals in the U.S. publishing industry. It said that the number of large mainstream publishing houses would go down from five to four.