Bertelsmann Says U.S. OKs Random House Acquisition

From Times Wire Services

Federal antitrust authorities have cleared the way for German media conglomerate Bertelsmann to acquire the biggest U.S. book publisher, Random House, the German company said Sunday.

The Federal Trade Commission "has raised no objections" to Bertelsmann's application to buy Random House. "Bertelsmann is thus cleared by the FTC to close its transaction, as originally scheduled, by midsummer," a company statement said.

A group of authors had raised objections to the merger, saying it would create a "new economic behemoth" with the potential to restrict readers' choices and authors' ability to market their works. Bertelsmann dismissed the authors' arguments and said Random House would retain its editorial independence.

Bertelsmann, the world's third-largest media and entertainment company after Time Warner Inc. and Walt Disney Co., has been expanding its English-language publishing business since buying Bantam Books in 1977 and already owns Doubleday, Dell-Delacorte and Broadway Books. Those will be combined with Random House and its Knopf, Crown and Ballantine imprints to form a publishing giant under the Random House name.

New York-based Random House was founded in 1925. Its authors include the late Theodor Geisel, who wrote the Dr. Seuss children's books, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Ford and Norman Mailer.

Random House is being sold by Advance Publications Inc., which wants to focus on its main businesses of newspapers, magazines, business journals and cable TV. Advance, which is owned by the Newhouse family, also owns the New Yorker, GQ and Vanity Fair.

Both companies are privately held, and neither has said how much Bertelsmann is paying for Random House, but the price has been estimated at $1.1 billion to $1.6 billion.

The deal puts control of seven of the top 20 American publishing houses in foreign hands.

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