July 13, 2014
Monday, December 23, 2013

Penguin Random House to take Alfaguara

Arturo Pérez Reverte’s El francotirador paciente (left) and Mario Vargas Llosa’s El héroe discreto (right), two of Alfaguara’s top selling books in Argentina in 2013.
By purchasing Spanish labels, the literary giant will become world’s largest conglomerate

Just days after denying reports that it had given the green light to sell, Spanish media company Grupo Prisa is allegedly very close to confirming that its Alfaguara label, among others, will soon be absorbed into the world’s largest literary conglomerate, Penguin Random House.
The highly anticipated sale represents the definitive beginning of a new chapter in commercial publishing — which will now be sketched out by the almighty publishing giant in Penguin Random House— and is also an unfortunate outcome for Grupo Prisa, whose decision to shrink its portfolio comes in response to a debt estimated at over three billion euros.
Rumours had been circulating for a year about the potential sale of the group’s labels, even as the Pearson Group that owned Penguin and the Bertelsmann Group that owned Random House were still to finalize their merger as the world’s largest publishing house.
Yesterday the Spanish daily El Mundo claimed the “official announcement is about to drop,” even after Prisa had last week sent notification to the Spanish National Securities Market Commission (CNMV) to deny that it had “reached any agreement over the sale of Alfaguara and its others literary labels to Penguin Random House, or the sale of any part of the Santillana division,” which manages the labels in question.
Prisa’s labels have a strong foot had in the Latin American market, pecifically in Argentina, and any potential sale of its labels could signify a change of landscapes in the continent’s book scene, particularly if some of the company’s highly profitable text book labels are included in the deal.

A NEW CHAPTER. The global book market used to be defined by six major New York publishers. But US government lawyers cleared the merger of Random House Inc. and Penguin Group (US), creating the world’s largest producer of books, and according to industry consultant Mike Shatzkin, a “new top tier.”
“No longer do the ‘Big Six’ define scale,” Shatzkin says. “Now there is the Big One and the Following Four.”
With labels like Alfaguara, the publishing company led by Markus Dohle with John Makinson as president will become the largest in the world with 250 labels and three-billion euros in yearly revenue.
Alfaguara along with other Prisa labels Aguilar, Suma de Letras and Taurus, will provide the conglomerate with a plethora of esteemed authors to add to its current catalogue of 15,000.
It would gain Philip Roth, Mario Vargas Llosa, Bret Easton Ellis, Agustín Fernández Mallo, César Aira, Gay Talese, Junot Díaz, Javier Marías, Chuck Palahniuk, Stephen King, Ken Follet, and Stephenie Meyer, among others.
For the Spanish literary market, the sale would also mean commercial polarization between two giants, pitting Penguin Random House against Barcelona-based multimedia company Grupo Planeta, which has also struggled in recent years.
Yet, it’s on an international scale that the purchase is expected to have its biggest impact, as it consolidates the new multinational literary giant Penguin Random House in a field of its own in terms of commercial dominance, in times when printed literature is struggling against the expanding and higly-competitive world of e-books.
Alfaguara is perhaps the stand-out name in the anticipated sale. It was founded 49 years ago by Nobel Prize winner Camilo José Cela and has published highly celebrated authors like Argentina’s Julio Cortázar.
It was purchased by Grupo Santillana in 1980, which in turn was taken over by Grupo Prisa in 2000.
Herald with Télam
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