Osprey Publishing Group has sold imprints Watkins, Angry Robot and Nourish to US entrepreneur Etan Ilfeld.
The sale price for the three imprints has not been disclosed, but all staff will keep their jobs at sci-fi imprint Angry Robot, mind, body and spirit publisher Watkins and wellbeing cookbook arm Nourish following the sale.
The news comes after chairman Robin Black confirmed a strategic review of the company in June which he said may include “the potential sale of any part of the business.”
Richard Sullivan, managing director at Osprey, told The Bookseller that as a result of the review, the three imprints were placed into administration by Alcuin Capital Partners LLP in order to protect the rest of the Group.
Sullivan said: “This was reluctantly done to protect the remaining parts of the Group, Osprey Publishing, Shire and Old House Books and British Wildlife Publishing, which remain profitable, independent businesses.” He added: “The key finding of the strategic review is that the Oxford part of the Group is an effective, profitable business. For both Osprey and Shire we want to move forward from this change, focusing on our successful series publishing, hardback and gift book programmes, and to grow organically into newer areas like games. Additionally we have plenty of exciting opportunity around our last acquisition, British Wildlife Publishing."
Ilfeld, the new owner of Watkins, which dates back to 1893 and was bought by Osprey in July 2012, also owns Watkins Bookshop in London’s Cecil Court and is editor-in-chief of the Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine. Following the acquisition, he plans to form Watkins Media Limited, which will include magazine publishing, his bookshop and mobile app development.
Ilfeld said: “I’m very excited to be reuniting Watkins Books and Watkins Publishing, and to preserve John Watkins’ legacy. Watkins Publishing has great synergy with Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine, which we launched in 2010, and Kindred Spirit magazine, which we acquired in April. My ambition is to grow the Watkins brand into a diverse media company with inspirational books at its core. Nourish’s focus on wellbeing through food and drink makes it a natural fit with Watkins, and as a die-hard sci-fi fan, I’m thrilled about purchasing Angry Robot.”
The Osprey Group completed a refinancing to fund expansion in 2011, obtaining £4m from London-based private equity firm Alcuin. Its policy of acquisition saw it buy Angry Robot and Old House Books & Maps in in 2011, Duncan Baird in 2012 and British Wildlife Publishing in 2013.
In November last year the publisher filed its results for the year 2012, in which it showed a 50% revenue growth from £7m to £10.6m, due partly to organic expansion and partly the acquisition of Duncan Baird, which saw the company almost doubling in size. Osprey recorded a loss for the year after taxation, of £76,665, falling 86% from the loss of £559,024 in 2011.
Osprey’s c.e.o, Rebecca Smart left the company earlier in the year to take over as managing director of Ebury Publishing at Penguin Random House.
Angry Robot closed two of its imprints, Exhibit A and Strange Chemistry, with immediate effect in June following the strategic review. At that time, Robin Black, chairman of the Osprey Group, told The Bookseller that he did not wish to make a public comment “about a private company.” However, he said: “We are undergoing a strategic review internally following Rebecca leaving, and included in that is the potential sale of any part of the business”.