The Biggest Plot Twists in the Simon & Schuster Antitrust Trial

By Victoria Bekiempis, Vulture

“Everything is random in publishing. Success is random. Best sellers are random. So that is why we are the Random House!” Such were the reported words of Penguin Random House chief executive officer Markus Dohle during his August 4 testimony in an antitrust trial that could determine the fate of the U.S. publishing industry. The trial kicked off August 1 in federal court in Washington D.C. The Justice Department is fighting to keep the publishing giants Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House from completing their planned merger in a $2 billion deal. But if quotes like the ones captured by journalist John Maher are any indication, one of the most serious matters publishing has faced of late is being litigated with off-the-cuff remarks that clash with its watershed implications. The stage was set for this legal drama on November 25, 2020, when ViacomCBS (now Paramount Global) announced it was selling Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House. If all went according to plan, the multibillion-dollar merger would have major implications for publishing because it would cull the industry’s big-five publishing houses — Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan — to the big four. The future of this deal came into question November 2, however, when President Biden’s Justice Department sued to block the merger, claiming it would harm authors by leaving them with little leverage.

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