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Book Publisher Simon & Schuster Sold To Rival

Bob Woodward's book <em>Rage</em> was one of a wave of highly publicized books <em></em>Simon & Schuster published this year critical of President Trump.
Jim Watson
Getty Images
Bob Woodward's book Rage was one of a wave of highly publicized books Simon & Schuster published this year critical of President Trump.

Publishing company Simon & Schuster has been sold to its competitor Penguin Random House. The news was announced Wednesday by Simon & Schuster's parent company, ViacomCBS.

The $2.175 billion sale is expected to close in 2021, pending regulatory approvals.

According to the statement announcing the sale, Simon & Schuster will "continue to be managed as a separate publishing unit" underneath Penguin Random House, which itself is owned by the German media giant Bertelsmann.

Simon & Schuster is the third largest among the so-called "Big Five" publishers in the book world (with Penguin Random House being at the top). It's behind such current bestsellers as the late Alex Trebek's recent memoir The Answer Is...:Reflections On My Life, Stephen King's latest novel The Institute, and the Mary Higgins Clark thriller Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry. The company's backlist also includes F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Doris Kearns Goodwin's seminal Abraham Lincoln book, Team of Rivals.

As for ViacomCBS, it will be using the money from the sale to pay down debts, and invest in streaming. The company had announced in September plans to rebrand its CBS All Access streaming service early next year as Paramount+. The company — fresh off its own recent merger — had put Simon & Schuster up for sale earlier this year, saying the publisher wasn't a "core asset" for the company.

Since then, Simon & Schuster has been the center of attention over the summer for publishing books critical of President Trump, including John Bolton's memoir The Room Where it Happened, Mary L. Trump's book Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, and the Bob Woodward book Rage.

Should the sale go through, it'd be an even further consolidation of the book publishing industry. It wasn't so long ago that Penguin and Random House were separate companies.

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Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.