The Book On Bertelsmann

By acquiring Random House, the German media giant thinks it can increase profits in a declining industry

In the gossipy literary circles of New York City, the half-life of an industry secret is generally the next lunch. That's why the announcement last week that German media titan Bertelsmann AG was buying Random House was doubly shocking. Hardly anyone knew that the venerable American publishing institution, a supposedly sacrosanct division of Advance Publications, was for sale. The estimated $1.4 billion deal was negotiated surreptitiously over four months. Indeed, many Random House staff members found out about it by reading the morning newspaper.

The sale makes Bertelsmann, based in Gutersloh, Germany, the leader in American publishing. It's just more evidence...

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