June 17, 2010
Thomas Nelson Acquired by New York Firm
The private equity firm Kolberg & Co. led a group of investors to acquire a majority stake in Christian publisher Thomas Nelson, announced Thomas Nelson Tuesday in a press release.
As part of the deal, Publisher's Weekly reports, Kolberg plans to appoint 55% of the Thomas Nelson board of directors, including the innovative publishing mogul Jane Friedman, CEO of the digital-only publishing firm Open Road Integrated Media and former CEO of HarperCollins, as well as several Kolberg senior execs.
“We are very excited about what this means for Thomas Nelson’s future in the rapidly evolving publishing industry,” said Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt in the press release. “We are eager to start working with Kohlberg and our other new board members as we build upon our success bringing some of the most talented Christian authors and speakers to millions of people around the globe.”
According to The Wall Street Journal, Thomas Nelson hopes that this deal will enable them to be more aggressive about acquiring other companies.
Thomas Nelson revealed in their press release that the purchase “will significantly improve the company’s capital structure and eliminate the majority of its long-term debt.”
The company, privately held since 2006, has not disclosed details of its financial situation. The recent economy has not been good to the publishing firm, though they “tried getting ahead of the recession by cutting staff from about 600 to between 400 and 500 in the past couple of years,” the Journal reports.
"It sounds like they are an excellent company that just had a bad balance sheet," said Roger Briggs, a partner in a Nashville private equity firm, to the Tennesean.
Thomas Nelson, Inc. traces its history to 1798, when Thomas Nelson, Sr. opened a second-hand bookstore in Edinburgh, Scotland. The publisher opened its first United States office in 1854. They were the first to publish the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, and the New King James Version of the Bible.
UPDATE: The Wall Street Journal has further comment, noting that companies who have previously acquired religious publishers have found that "these deals aren’t universally generating heavenly returns."