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Bertelsmann to Acquire Random House

By Eric R. Quinones,  Associated Press

NEW YORK — Putting best-selling writers John Grisham and Michael Crichton on the same corporate bookshelf, German conglomerate Bertelsmann AG struck a deal Monday to buy Random House, the biggest U.S. book publisher.

The purchase price was not disclosed.

Bertelsmann is the world's third-largest media and entertainment company, with holdings that include Bantam Doubleday Dell, publisher of Grisham's courtroom thrillers. Random House has published the books of Crichton, Norman Mailer and John Updike.

"Our new company will draw and build upon the strengths of two great publishing traditions ... with an unprecedented diversity of publishing choices," said Peter Olson, current chairman of Bertelsmann Book Group North America, who will head the new Random House.

The German company trails only Time Warner Inc. and Walt Disney Co. among media giants. It already owns the BMG music club, the RCA and Arista record labels, and such magazines as McCall's and Family Circle.

Random House is being sold by Advance Publications Inc., which wants to focus on its main businesses of newspapers, magazines, business journals and cable TV. Advance, which is owned by the Newhouse family, also owns The New Yorker, GQ and Vanity Fair.

The new company will combine a variety of publishing imprints: Doubleday, Bantam Books, Dell-Delacorte and Broadway Books from Bertelsmann, and Random House, Knopf, Crown and Ballantine from Advance.

Random House also will add its wealth of titles to BooksOnline, an online book-selling venture that Bertelsmann is planning in competition with Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Bertelsmann has been moving to expand its English-language operation since purchasing Bantam Books in 1977.

Random House was founded in 1927 by Bennett Cerf and Donald S. Klopfer, two friends who started by buying the Modern Library, a collection of classic reprints.

They then expanded into a wider range of books and named the company to suit their random interests.

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