Saturday, August 22, 2009

Media Week 32: Reader's Digest, Jane Friedman, Barnes & Noble

Jane Friedman - exCEO of Harpercollins has launched a new e-Book publishing company named Open Road. Details are few but in a financial filing her company has received $3mm in initial funding (DMW):

OpenRoad Integrated Media, a start-up focused on e-book publishing and marketing, has raised a $3 million round of venture capital financing, led by Bay Area Holdings, PaidContent reported, citing a regulatory filing.
In case you missed the news about Reader's Digest: Reader's Digest restructure their debt as part of prepackaged bankruptcy filing. Emerges with 75% less debt to $550mm! (Link)

Bloomberg publish an overview Tim Collins one of the principal investors in Reader's Digest (Bloom):
Collins bought WRC Media Inc., the publisher of Weekly Reader magazines for school children, in 1999. Five years later he bought Time Warner’s direct-marketing arm, Time Life Inc., which Ripplewood later renamed Direct Holdings U.S. Corp.
Rescue Plan
Attempts to turn the companies around were floundering when Collins bought Pleasantville, New York-based Reader’s Digest and its pocket-sized magazine with a worldwide circulation at the time of 18 million for $2.4 billion including debt. WRC Media had already violated debt agreements and was on the verge of bankruptcy. Direct Holdings had posted two years of net losses.
Ripplewood projected that the transaction, which included merging WRC Media and Direct Holdings with Reader’s Digest, would yield $20 million in savings. The firm used some of the deal financing to pay down $168 million of WRC Media’s and Direct Holdings’ debt. Ripplewood and its co-investors contributed at least $375 million of equity to the deal.
News of Haights Cross as they struggle with their debt load (PW):
In its own press release, Haights said if the exchange offering is not approved, it will be forced to consider alternative options, include filing for Chapter 11. Meanwhile the operating performance of the company’s two main units, fell in the second quarter. Sales at Recorded Books slipped 2.7%, to $20.8 million, and the spokenword audio publisher’s operating income dipped to $6.1 million from $6.4 million.
Barnes and Noble shareholders (amazing there are any other than Len Riggio) are unhappy with he proposed deal to purchase privately held Barnes & Noble College (CHN):
Barnes & Noble's offer to buy the College Booksellers division from company founder, chairman of the board and controlling shareholder Leonard Riggio offers far more than what a third party would pay to buy the floundering branch, the shareholders say. The deal lacks transparency, since Barnes & Noble did not submit history or projections for the division's performance, according to the complaint, which alleges that company directors approved the acquisition because they are indebted to Riggio.
In case you missed the news about Reader's Digest: Reader's Digest restructure their debt as part of prepackaged bankruptcy filing. Emerges with 75% less debt to $550mm!

The Electronic Frontier Foundation raises questions over Google book search privacy. (EFF):
Given this backdrop, we asked Google to promise that it would fight for those same standards to be applied to its Google Book Search product. We want Google to promise that it will demand more than a subpoena (which is written by a lawyer and not approved by a judge) or some other legal process that a judge has not approved before turning over your book records. In essence, we asked Google to tell whoever came to them demanding reader information: "Come back with a warrant."
Honestly, we thought it would be an easy thing for Google to do.
Unfortunately, Google has refused. It is insisting on keeping broad discretion to decide when and where it will actually stand up for user privacy, and saying that we should just trust the company to do so. So, if Bob looks like a good guy, maybe they'll stand up for him. But if standing up for Alice could make Google look bad, complicate things for the company, or seem ill-advised for some other reason, then Google insists on having the leeway to simply hand over her reading list after a subpoena or some lesser legal process.

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