Bloomsbury buys Head of Zeus in £8.5m deal

Bloomsbury buys Head of Zeus in £8.5m deal

Bloomsbury has bought indie publisher Head of Zeus in a £8.5m deal, in a move greeted generally positively by authors and agents.

In an announcement yesterday (2nd June), Bloomsbury said the acquisition would “provide a strong addition to Bloomsbury's thriving consumer division and support our long-term consumer growth strategy, with new high-quality authors and effective publishing across all formats, including e-book and audio”.

Nigel Newton, Bloomsbury's c.e.o, told The Bookseller no changes were planned, with chairman Anthony Cheetham and c.e.o. Nicolas Cheetham continuing to run the company from their Clerkenwell offices. Head of Zeus will be an independent imprint within the Bloomsbury consumer division.

The announcement was broadly welcomed by agents and authors The Bookseller spoke to, with some singling out Head of Zeus' strong backlist as a particular area of opportunity.

Head of Zeus, founded in 2012, generated £8.6m of revenue in the year ending 31st December 2020, and profit before tax of £0.3m, with net assets of £4.6m. Its authors include Dan Jones, Cixin Liu, Victoria Hislop, Lesley Thomson, and Elodie Harper. Cixin Liu's science fiction trilogy, The Three-Body Problem, is being adapted for Netflix by David Benioff and D B Weiss, creators of HBO's "Game of Thrones".

Bloomsbury said the total value of the acquisition was £8.5m including payments of pre-existing loans. The consideration, net of pre-existing loans, is £7.4m, of which £5.5m will be satisfied in cash at completion.

Newton commented: "Head of Zeus' entrepreneurial and innovative approach to publishing, and its wide range of trade titles, will make a strong addition to Bloomsbury's own.  Bloomsbury will be able to provide the scale and digital platforms to boost Head of Zeus' success while operating as an independent imprint within the Bloomsbury Consumer division. We look forward to welcoming Head of Zeus' great authors and talented staff to Bloomsbury and working with them in the years to come."

Anthony Cheetham added: "After nine vigorous years as an independent publisher, I believe that Head of Zeus, our authors, our staff and our shareholders have found the right long-term home for our company with Bloomsbury.

“I have known Nigel Newton for more than 30 years. We share many of the same values: creative publishing, unique content and beautiful books. And an entrepreneurial spirit that values innovation above conformity. Bloomsbury Publishing is itself unique as the only British book publisher listed on the London Stock Exchange.

“I would like to express my gratitude to all our stakeholders for their support since Head of Zeus was launched in 2012, and my thanks to Bloomsbury for opening the door to further growth and opportunity in the years ahead."

The acquisition was announced on the same day Bloomsbury reported "record" results for the last financial year with double-digit growth in revenue and profit.

Speaking about the deal, Peter Straus, m.d. at agency RCW, told The Bookseller: "I think it's probably a good move for both parties because Bloomsbury is a serious trade publisher which has shown it's taken on other companies and done well with them and so there's no reason they can't do well with Head of Zeus. Head of Zeus has a strong backlist and a good frontlist with good authors and so it's an exciting fit that benefits everyone."

Author Wendy Holden, who published three comic novels known as the Laura Lake series with Head of Zeus and is now with Welbeck, said: “This has to be great news for Head of Zeus who can now connect their innovative approach with Bloomsbury’s firepower. I’ll be interested to see what they do with the backlist."

However, one agent, who preferred to remain anonymous, sounded a note of caution over the ramifications. Despite Newton saying no changes were planned, they said: "Takeovers are always presented as a really positive thing but invariably it leads to redundancies and streamlining. They will be looking to make it more profitable. What does an independent publisher mean in this context - how independent will they be? They will be accountable to Bloomsbury."