News Corp, the parent company of HarperCollins, has reached a deal to acquire Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media for $349 million (U.S.), the company announced on March 29. The deal brings a backlist of more than 7,000 titles into the HarperCollins library, including children’s classics such as Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express and Lois Lowry’s The Giver and children’s series such as Big Dog and Little Dog, Curious George, and Carmen Sandiego. The deal is expected to close before June 30, the end of the 2021 fiscal year, pending regulatory approval.
HMH is currently distributed by Raincoast Books in Canada. “The deal was just announced and there are a number of regulatory steps that need to be taken, so it is premature to talk about the Canadian market in detail,” says Jamie Broadhurst, VP Marketing at Raincoast. “But I can say that Raincoast’s priority right now is supporting the HMH list in Canada with as much focus as possible. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt are a wonderful team to work with and their books are truly exceptional.”
HarperCollinsCanada directed a question about the deal to the American team. “Right now we are focused on closing the deal and no decisions have been made,” Erin Crum, senior vice-president, corporate communications, confirms.
The pending acquisition comes as Penguin Random House parent company Bertelsmann undergoes regulatory approval for its $2.18 billion purchase of Simon & Schuster. While Canadian Heritage spokesperson Daniel Savoie won’t confirm if that deal is under review in Canada due to “strict confidentiality provisions,” independent presses and Canadian publishing advocates such as the Association of Canadian Publishers and the Writers’ Union of Canada have publicly objected to the proposed merger.
HMH’s literary catalogue isn’t quite as competitive in the Canadian market as it is in the U.S. Some of the backlist classics trumpeted in the announcement are already published by others in Canada – for example, HMH author George Orwell is public domain in Canada while HarperCollins already holds the rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s books throughout the Commonwealth.