HarperCollins Buys Thomas Nelson; Corners Religious Book Market

HarperCollins is quickly cornering the Christian book publishing market. The company announced Monday that it entered into a definitive agreement to buy Thomas Nelson, Inc. for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition is expected to close by the end of the year.

The financial news site, The Street, reports, “HarperCollins, the publishing house of News Corp., will buy Bible seller Thomas Nelson at a discount to the $473 million that private equity firm InterMedia paid to take the company private in 2006.”

Based in Nashville, Thomas Nelson is one of the leading trade publishers in the United States. They are also the world’s largest Christian publisher. They provide different forms of Christian literature, Bibles, e-books, journals and digital applications. High profile Christian authors such as Billy Graham, Max Lucado, John Eldredge, and Dave Ramsey are among the list of people they have published. Currently, Thomas Nelson has a #1 bestseller called Heaven Is For Real by Todd Burpo. In addition to book publishing and curriculum, Thomas Nelson also does marketing for the Women of Faith conference, which is a well-known women’s event across the U.S., usually attracting over 400,000 women annually.

Zondervan, another large Christian publishing company owned by HarperCollins, also has a hold on the Christian book market. Some are wondering how the two will fit together under HarperCollins since they target much of the same audience. Thomas Nelson is the world’s largest Christian publisher and Zondervan claims to be the world’s top Bible publisher.

But HarperCollins seems to know what it is doing. In an article from The Nashville Scene, Betsy Phillips writes, “HarperCollins already owns Zondervan and has the HarperOne imprint. Zondervan's focus is on religious books that go into Christian bookstores or are used as church curricula. HarperOne is aimed more at the secular bookstore market. And Thomas Nelson really hits that sweet spot right down the middle – doing some very successful titles that appeal to the secular bookstore model and being a mainstay of the Christian bookstore,” she writes.

Casey Francis, director of corporate communications for Thomas Nelson, told The Christian Post today, that through HarperCollins’ resources and capabilities, Thomas Nelson “will be able to capitalize on opportunities” HarperCollins will bring to the company.

HarperCollins’ Vice President for Corporate Communications Erin Crum didn’t seem worried about the Christian publishers working under one umbrella. We “will continue to publish both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan. They have complementary missions,” she said.

The deal between Harper and Thomas Nelson comes almost 18 months after Kohlberg & Co., a private equity firm, bought the majority of Thomas Nelson’s stock. It also comes a week after HarperCollins took over a longtime publisher of Hollywood scripts. They purchased much of the catalog of Newmarket Press, which has released the scripts of "The King's Speech," ''Juno" and many other films in book form.

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