Lezen Acquisition, an investment group led by Michael Lynton and his sister Lily Lynton, has bought Arcadia Publishing in the first of what they indicate will be a series of book publishing acquisitions. Former Perseus Books Group ceo David Steinberger is leading the new company as ceo, and Michael Lynton is nonexecutive chairman. “We intend to make other acquisitions, and that will give us scale,” Steinberger tells the WSJ. “If you can find the right publishers and bring them together, you can create a lot of value, because certain costs don’t rise proportionately with revenue.”
Michael Lynton is currently chairman of Snap, a director at Pearson, and a member of the board at the National Book Foundation (which Steinberger chairs). He was ceo of Penguin from 1996 to 2000 (after overseeing Hyperion Books for Disney). Lili Lynton is co-founder of the company that backs Daniel Boulud’s restaurant group (and they come from the family that founded and controls Hunter Douglas; the J. Anthony Lukas Prize Project, which they established, includes the Mark Lynton History Prize, named for their father). Lezen is Dutch for “read.”
With approximately 14,000 titles, South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing calls itself “the largest publisher of local history books, and regional content guides in America,” and employs approximately 100 people. The company bought the US division of The History Press in 2014, and last year they acquired self-publisher Palmetto Publishing Group. Their books are self distributed, though they work with Baker & Taylor’s Global Publishers Services as well. Longtime Arcadia CEO Richard Joseph “will continue to play a key role, both in his new position as senior advisor to the CEO and as an investor in the company going forward.”
Steinberger says that Arcadia’s local and regional focus is “definitely the initial direction” that Lezen will focus on for its first set of acquisitions. “We’re already looking at [some other] local and regional publishers” for potential purchase, Steinberger said, noting “the model is potentially very powerful.” With a dedicated sales force that calls on nontraditional outlets across the country and platform that can already “customize an assortment of books for any store in the country,” Steinberger sees a “platform with extraordinary retail breadth and tremendous coverage” to build upon, “and there’s less dependence on individual large accounts than you would typically see” at a book publisher.
Other investors in the new holding company include billionaire Len Blavatnik ; Ellis Jones, chairman of Wasserstein & Co.; Glenn Dubin, founder of quantitative-trading firm Engineers Gate Manager; and Tony Ressler, co-founder and executive chairman of investment firm Ares Management; according to the WSJ.
As Michael Lynton tells the paper, “The book business is misunderstood by the investor community.” He notes in the press release, “We see an overlooked opportunity to create value in the book industry by backing the right management team and building a unique publishing company through a series of targeted acquisitions. Today represents an important first step on this path.” Arcadia was represented in sale by David Lamb and Susan Reich at Book Advisors and Jonathan Nowell at Jonathan Nowell & Co.