Justice Department Sues to Block ViacomCBS Sale of Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House

The Justice Department has filed an anti-trust lawsuit against to block ViacomCBS’ sale of publisher Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House, asserting that it would give the enlarged company too much power over the book business.

ViacomCBS set a deal with Germany’s Bertelsmann, parent company of Penguin Random House, to sell Simon & Schuster for $2.1 billion in November 2020.

“Books have shaped American public life throughout our nation’s history, and authors are the lifeblood of book publishing in America. But just five publishers control the U.S. publishing industry,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “If the world’s largest book publisher is permitted to acquire one of its biggest rivals, it will have unprecedented control over this important industry. American authors and consumers will pay the price of this anticompetitive merger – lower advances for authors and ultimately fewer books and less variety for consumers.”

ViacomCBS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Richard A. Powers, acting assistant general, went so far as to say that the suit is designed to “prevent further consolidation in an industry that has a history of collusion.”

Penguin Random House is the world’s largest publisher releasing about 2,000 titles a year, according to the suit. Simon & Schuster is the fourth-largest publisher with about 1,000 titles released each year.

More to come

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