Torstar, Harlequin's parent company, announced today that they will be selling the publishing powerhouse to News Corp., where it will become a division of HarperCollins. Harlequin sold for $455 million (Canadian) and the transaction, which will need clearance under competition law, is scheduled to close by the end of September. Craig Swinwood, Publisher and CEO of Harlequin, is optimistic about the deal: "This transaction will allow Harlequin to continue to operate as a distinct and successful brand within a larger publishing company. We're excited to be able to take full advantage of HarperCollins' robust resources, scale and capabilities to expand the reach of our books and grow our business." Harlequin's headquarters will remain in Canada.
According to The Globe and Mail, "Harlequin’s revenue in the fourth quarter fell to $95 million from $105 million in the year earlier period, and operating profit declined to $10.25 million from $14.8 million." Though, Publisher's Weekly points out, "the company has long had one of the best operating margins in trade publishing."
This move will mean big changes, although right now we can only speculate about the details. In particular much of the early focus has been on Harlequin's extensive international markets — Harlequin currently publishes in 34 languages and titles are sold in 102 international markets — which HarperCollins is interested in tapping into, per Publisher's Weekly and other sources.
Librarians, meanwhile, are worried about how the deal will affect ebook lending. So far, Harlequin ebooks have been available to libraries at fair pricing with no loan restrictions, but this has the potential to change as HarperCollins books are generally more restricted. Only time will tell!