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ViacomCBS said Wednesday it is selling book publishing behemoth Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House, a subsidiary of German media giant Bertelsmann SE & Co., for $2.175 billion in an all-cash deal.

Why it matters: The deal brings together the biggest and third-biggest book publishers in the U.S., which means it could be met with antitrust scrutiny.

Details: The deal comes at a time in which book consumption is peaking during the pandemic.

  • Simon & Schuster has more than 30 publishing units across adult, children, audio and international, per ViacomCBS. Its portfolio includes authors like Stephen King, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Jason Reynolds.
  • Penguin is the largest book publisher in the country, having sold approximately 25% of all books in the country last year, per The Wall Street Journal. Its portfolio includes titles like former President Barack Obama's latest book, "A Promised Land," and Michelle Obama's memoir, "Becoming."
  • LionTree Advisors is acting as the exclusive financial adviser and Shearman & Sterling LLP is acting as legal adviser to ViacomCBS in the deal.

Between the lines: Reports surfaced earlier this month that News Corp’s HarperCollins Publishers, the second-largest book publisher in the U.S., was also interested in a potential deal. The deal would make HarperCollins a distant second in size to a combined Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House company.

The big picture: ViacomCBS announced last year that it was looking to sell the nearly 100-year-old book publisher as a part of a greater effort to offload non-core assets and focus on streaming. The company is also hoping to resume the sale of CBS’s Manhattan headquarters building, known as Black Rock, after the pandemic.

What's next: The transaction is expected to close in 2021 subject to regulatory approvals.

Go deeper

Prince Harry and Meghan expand media push with exclusive Spotify deal

Photo: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Spotify on Tuesday announced a multi-year partnership with Archewell Audio, the newly formed audio production company created by Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle.

Why it matters: It's the latest effort from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to use media as a platform for change. The pair signed a multi-year Netflix deal in September.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Several states report zero COVID deaths for the first time in months — CDC says schools should still universally require masks and physical distancing.
  2. Politics: New York to lift mask mandate for vaccinated people — CDC director says politics didn't play a role in abrupt mask policy shift.
  3. Vaccines: Sanofi, GSK COVID vaccine shows strong immune response in phase 2 trials — Vaccine-hesitant Americans cite inaccurate side effects — 600,000 kids between 12 and 15 have received Pfizer dose since FDA authorization.
  4. Business: How retailers are responding to the latest CDC guidance — Delta to require all new employees be vaccinated — Target, CVS and other stores ease mask requirements after CDC guidance.
  5. World: World's largest vaccine maker expects to resume exports by end of 2021 — Biden administration to send 20 million U.S.-authorized vaccine doses abroad.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
2 hours ago - World

Scoop: Biden to waive sanctions on company in charge of Nord Stream 2

Angela Merkel (left) with Vladimir Putin. Photo: Adam Berry/Getty Images

The Biden administration will waive sanctions on the corporate entity and CEO overseeing the construction of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline into Germany, according to two sources briefed on the decision.

Why it matters: The decision indicates the Biden administration is not willing to compromise its relationship with Germany over this pipeline, and underscores the difficulties President Biden faces in matching actions to rhetoric on a tougher approach to Russia.