Skip to Content

Hachette swoops on Time Warner

13 February 2006

Just when News Review was hoping to feature some encouraging stories of new writers getting big publishing deals, the tectonic plates have shifted again in the corporate publishing world, and reporting on this seems more urgent.

In a lightning swoop which was kept remarkably secret from all but a handful of people, the French publishing giant Hachette Livre has now acquired Time-Warner Publishing, with implications for its companies in the UK, US and Australia. As well as its large publishing holdings in France, Hachette already owns three other companies in the UK: Orion, with its commercial list and its upmarket imprint Weidenfeld and Nicolson; the illustrated publishing group Octopus, which it acquired in 2002; and Hodder Headline, which it bought just last year.

This new acquisition is particularly important to the French publishing group, as it gives it entry to the US market with the well-regarded Time-Warner Publishing division, consisting of long-established Little Brown and the commercial powerhouse Warner Books. And access to the US is key for any publishing group which wants to take a strong position on the international stage, meaning English language publishing. Hachette, which has until quite recently been quite parochial in its outlook, has now quite clearly decided to take the international route to growth.

The purchase makes Hachette the biggest publishing group in the UK, overtaking Random House by some £34m in annual turnover. It now owns over 30 imprints, manned by more than 1,000 staff. It also means that out of every 10 books sold in Britain nearly 4 will come from a company with French or German parents.

In the UK the move has been greeted positively and there seems little reason to feel that it is a bad thing for authors. Jonathan Lloyd of the Curtis BrownSee Curtis Brown listing literary agency said: 'Normally such announcements fill one with dread, and with concern for staff and authors. But knowing the Hachette group and the recognition it has for the individual publishers within it, one is thrilled for all parties.' The divisions will continue to bid against one another up to a certain level, and there appears to be, at present, no intention of closing down or amalgamating imprints.

The American acquisition will give all the imprints the capacity to offer for world English language rights (see Inside Publishing), but this is being played down at present. For Hachette this acquisition represents the springboard to the international market. Authors and agents can breath a sigh or of relief that this further concentration of power will be in 'safe' publishing hands.