Publishing giant Simon & Schuster may be about to undergo a change in ownership, according to reports — and it’s a shift that could significantly impact the comic book industry.
A number of outlets including the New York Times and Deadline are reporting that S&S’s parent company, Paramount Global, is preparing to announce the sale of the publisher to investment company KKR & Co. Inc., with the announcement possibly coming as early as this afternoon. The sale, which insiders have told Deadline is worth somewhere in the region of $1.62 billion, may coincide with both Paramount and KKR announcing their separate second quarter financial results August 7.
Paramount has been looking to sell Simon & Schuster for some time; a deal with Penguin Random House in 2022 fell apart after a federal judge upheld a complaint from the Department of Justice that such a deal would be anticompetitive. That deal, notably, was for $2.18 billion, meaning that the price has dropped significantly for the publisher in the interim… but then, Paramount’s own stock has been falling during that period.
It’s unclear what KKR would do with Simon & Schuster, but the new owners’ plans are sure to be the subject of scrutiny by a number of comic book publishers, with S&S responsible for the bookstore distribution of AHOY Comics, AWA, Black Mask, BOOM! Studios, Heavy Metal, Humanoids, Legendary Comics, Mad Cave Studios, Oni Press-Lion Forge, Papercutz, Rebellion, Scout Comics, TKO Studios, Vault Comics, VIZ Media, and Z2 Comics. Just last week, Image Comics announced that it would be moving to Simon & Schuster for bookstore distribution in January 2024.
Should KKR want to pivot S&S away from servicing external publishers and focus on its own publishing plans, that would mean a significant portion of the comic industry would be left looking for new distribution outside of the comic book retail market — which could be a big opportunity for any upstart distributor, even as it could leave many publishers struggling as a result.
Consider this a developing story.