Rupert Murdoch Becomes The Lord of The Lord of the Rings

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One publisher to rule them all, one publisher to bind them.

News Corp is buying the consumer arm of publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for $349 million, bringing the works of George Orwell, Philip Roth and J.R.R. Tolkien into Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.

Newly Slim Newscorp on Acquisition Hunt

Orwell, an avowed democratic socialist, probably wouldn’t have been drinking buddies with Murdoch, a rough-and-tumble conservative capitalist. But now News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers division will play home to his legendary political novels 1984 and Animal Farm. It’ll also own the publishing rights to Tolkein’s famed The Lord of the Rings fantasy trilogy.

News Corp’s recent strategy has been slimming down its non-core business lines. For example, last year it put marketing division News America Marketing and video-advertising platform Unruly up for sale.

But the company is also eyeing select acquisitions to bolster its publishing portfolio.

  • Last week, it agreed to buy Investor’s Business Daily for $275 million, adding to the portfolio of investors publications under its Dow Jones unit. It joins The Wall Street Journal, MarketWatch and Barron’s.
  • HarperCollins expects the new acquisition will save more than $20 million annually within two years.

Meanwhile, Boston-based Houghton will use the proceeds of the sale to pay down debt and double down on its digital-first strategy as an education publisher.

Pandemic-Powered Publishing: HarperCollins has ridden a crescendo of book-buying during the Covid pandemic, posting a 23% growth in revenue to $544 million and $104 million in profits in its latest quarter. The Houghton unit that it’s adding made $191.7 million last year.

the takeaway

Gandalf’s colour of choice is white, but now he’ll be raking in green for the Murdochs.