Ain't That Romantic? News Corp. Buy

News Corp. is dabbling in a little printed-page peek-a-boo.

In a move that expands its holdings in publishing assets not supported by advertising, the publishing company controlled by media entrepreneur Rupert Murdoch said it would purchase romance publisher Harlequin Enterprises from Canada’s Torstar Corp, for approximately $415 million.

The deal aligns the publisher of The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal with the publisher of such titles as “Bare Essentials,” a work of erotic fiction by author Alessandra Torre, and “Her Cowboy Hero,” a bit of Americana from author Tanya Michaels.

While Harlequin will remain based in Toronto, it will become a unit of HarperCollins, the large U.S. book publisher News Corp. already owns.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and the approval of Torstar’s Class A shareholders. News Corp. said the closing is anticipated by the end of the third quarter of calendar year 2014. The company, split last year from the TV and movie holdings that now comprise 21st Century Fox Corp., said the deal is expected to be accretive to earnings and improve News Corp’s free cash flow.

News Corp. said the purchase would extend HarperCollins’ reach in 11 new countries as well as regions such as Europe and the Asia Pacific, and suggested Harlequin’s efforts in ebooks and the like would help spur digital business at both concerns.  Among Harlequin’s digital offerings are a series of e-books called “Spice Briefs,” which feature such works as “Tied Up And Twisted” by Alison Tyler and “Ecstasy In The White Room” by Portia Da Costa.

Harlequin publishes the work of more than 1,300 authors and releases more than 110 titles monthly. Approximately 40% of Harlequin’s revenues come from books published in languages other than English.  Meanwhile, nearly all of HarperCollins books are published in English.

Harlequin would be preserved as an independent unit of HarperCollins, said Brian Murray, chief executive of the unit.

“This acquisition will broaden the boundaries of both HarperCollins and Harlequin, and is a significant step in our strategy to establish a network of digital properties in the growth regions of the world,” said Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corp., in a prepared statement.

The purchase comes as other publishers of newspapers, a business that has come under severe duress in the past decade as advertisers and readers place more time and money in digital media, are attempting to solidify their operations.

The Baltimore Sun Media Group, part of Tribune Co., said Thursday it had agreed to purchase  The Capital in Annapolis, the Carroll County Times and other area publications and websites in Maryland, an effort to offer a broader array of properties to advertisers and perhaps achieve some better business economics. Tribune is in the process of spinning off its newspaper operations, which also include The Los Angeles Times and The Hartford (Conn.) Courant. The Courant in March announced it would buy some Connecticut publications.

 

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