ViacomCBS looking to sell book publisher Simon & Schuster

March 04, 2020 - 1:09 pm

NEW YORK (AP) — ViacomCBS, fresh off a merger, is looking to sell its Simon & Schuster book publishing business as it tries to raise cash to pay down debt and please shareholders with dividends and stock buybacks.

Simon & Schuster is a major publishing house, releasing nearly 2,000 books a year, according to its website. Its authors include Stephen King, Tom Perotta and Bob Woodward. But it made up just 3% of ViacomCBS' revenue last year.

ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish said the book publisher is not a “core asset” of the company since it isn't video. But he said it's a “marquee asset” that is “highly valuable.”

“I've had multiple unsolicited inbound calls" about the publisher, he said Wednesday at an investment conference.

Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy sent a letter to employees Wednesday telling them that ViacomCBS is beginning the sales process and that business will continue as usual.

ViacomCBS is also looking to see what other businesses it can unload. It has already been trying to sell the longtime CBS headquarters building, Black Rock, a famous Midtown Manhattan office tower designed by modernist master Eero Saarinen. Bakish said Wednesday that several potential buyers are interested and that he expects a sale to close this year.

ViacomCBS owns cable networks Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and Comedy Central as well as broadcast network CBS and movie studio Paramount. It is trying to navigate consumers' shift from watching live TV on a television set to streaming shows and movies on the internet. It's bulking up an existing streaming service, CBS All Access, and it will also continue supplying rivals with its library of shows and movies, like making SpongeBob spin-offs for Netflix.

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