HarperCollins has announced its intention to acquire Egmont Books UK for an undisclosed sum, alongside Egmont’s book businesses in Poland and Schneiderbuch Germany.
The transaction is set to complete on 30th April but will not include Egmont's magazine publishing. Egmont c.e.o. Torsten Bjerre Rasmussen said it had taken a “strategic decision” to exit the children's publishing market in the three countries.
On completion, Egmont Books UK will be run as a distinct children’s division led by its current m.d. Cally Poplak. Poplak will join HarperCollins UK executive committee, and will report to c.e.o. Charlie Redmayne. The division “will maintain its publishing autonomy and will remain in its offices for the immediate future”, HarperCollins said.
Children's agents have reacted to the move with cautious optimism, welcoming the promise that Egmont would be kept as a different division.
The deal will create what is likely to be the biggest UK children's publisher in terms of TCM market share. Last year HCCB and Egmont had sales of £58.6m through BookScan in the UK, while PRH Children's (not including DK) had sales of £57.1m. HCCB is coming off its third-straight David Walliams-fuelled record year, hitting sales of just over £45m (up 3.4%) while Egmont's sales were £13.6m (down 5%). PRH Children's, meanwhile, did have a slight TCM rise in 2019, but it has been under a 15% share of the market for the last two years.
Many of Egmont's bestellers are Minecraft related, including its Construction Handbook with 621,014 copies sold, but others include Michael Morpurgo's War Horse, which shifted 569,623 copies.
In Germany, Schneiderbuch will integrate into the children's books group reporting to Carina Mathern, editorial director of HarperCollins Germany Children's, who reports to Juergen Welte, m.d. of HarperCollins Germany. Egmont Books Poland will report through Agnieszka Baranska, m.d. of HarperCollins Poland.
Redmayne said: “The acquisition of Egmont will give us a huge opportunity to combine their existing profile and expertise in the UK and in Europe with the licensing experience and capability we already have in Suzanne Murphy’s HarperCollins US children’s business. This will enable us to unlock the potential of licensed publishing across the broadest international reach. We look forward to welcoming Cally and her team, and of course Egmont UK’s exceptional list, which includes iconic names such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Thomas the Tank Engine, Tintin and Mr Men, to HarperCollins UK where alongside Ann-Janine Murtagh’s record-breaking Children’s division we will continue to build an unbeatable children’s publishing proposition.”
Rasmussen added: “We have taken a strategic decision to exit the children’s book business in UK, Poland and Schneiderbuch in Germany, and we are pleased to announce that HarperCollins will be the future owne r of the business in these countries. I want to thank employees in all three countries that have done fantastic work over the years developing books and content at an international standard.”
Reacting to the news, agent Caroline Sheldon said: "Egmont has always been an individual and distinctive publisher building author’s voices. Since I understand Egmont are to be run as a separate division in Harper Collins, this should continue and will be very welcome to authors and agents as the number of potential homes in the children’s field is already small."
Stephanie Thwaites, of Curtis Brown, added: "Obviously as an agent it’s not ideal to have fewer publishers for our authors to choose from but as we don’t yet know how much independence Egmont will retain we’ll have to wait and see whether this will be an issue or not. There are always pros and cons with any merger and where we’ve seen them work successfully both cultures borrow and learn from one another and with the right leadership there can be a real clarity of vision which everyone can benefit from."