Liberal think tank urges DOJ to block sale of Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House

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The liberal Open Markets Institute said Wednesday that the sale of Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House poses “multiple dangers to American democracy,” and called on the Department of Justice to intervene.

ViacomCBS announced Wednesday that it agreed to sell book publisher Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House, which is owned by Bertelsmann, for $2.175 billion in cash.

Open Markets Institute executive director Barry Lynn said the deal would deliver too much power over the U.S. book market to a foreign-owned corporation.

“The Open Markets Institute calls on the Justice Department to challenge this deal and to make clear that no further consolidation of power will be allowed in America’s book publishing industry, which is already too concentrated,” said Mr. Lynn in a statement.

“Open Markets also calls on the Justice Department to immediately take steps to break Amazon’s power over the sale and distribution of books in America, which is the ultimate source of the pressures on America’s authors, editors, and publishers, as all the major publishers have made repeatedly clear in recent years.”

ViacomCBS said Wednesday that it expects the deal to close in 2021, subject to regulatory approvals. The announcement of the sale billed the deal as the “outcome of a highly competitive auction that attracted interest from buyers around the world.”

The deal has the potential to alter the book-publishing landscape in the United States and places American regulators in a crucial position to decide the future of the industry for years to come.

If successful, the deal would knock the big five publishers in the book industry down to four. Alongside Penguin Random House, the others are Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, and Macmillian.

Penguin and Random House consolidated in 2013.

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