Thursday, January 14, 2010

Breaking News: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Debt Restructure, which means...??

Being Boston-based, we here at SotB like to keeps tabs on our big local publishers.... or publisher. So I felt compelled to quickly post the news whipping around the interweb about the big momma Boston publisher (with offices in NY but c'mon...), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

If you have a subscription to the Wall Street Journal - in which case, you probably wouldn't be reading this blog - you can look here for the article on HMH's debt restructuring. The rest of us have to read second-hand in a variety of places, including:

- Mediabistro's GalleyCat, where Jason Boog links to the WSJ article and reports that, "According to an unnamed source in the article, the company currently has $6 billion in debt." Whoa.

- The Bookseller, from the UK, also linked by Boog. This is useful since HMH's parent company, Education Media & Publishing, is based in Ireland, within this site's reach. This article in turn links to an Irish source, RTE Business, for the financial info.

- And back on our fair shores, Melville House's MobyLives - a favorite blog of SotB's - reports on the issue as well, with the provocative headline, "Is Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Going Under?" Dennis Johnson posts a link to Publisher's Lunch, which again requires a subscription,. Johnson provides a nice summary that basically says the debt restructuring will lessen Barry O'Callaghan's stake in the business and increase the Irish government's stake - and thereby, the stake of the Irish people. Johnson pulls this quote out of the Pub Lunch post, from Irish official George Lee:

It has been reported to me that the education materials company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has failed, and that a number of Irish equity investors have lost significant sums of money as a result. Many of these investors were funded through large loans from Anglo Irish Bank, which is now wholly owned by Irish taxpayers. As a company, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was a highly leveraged operation and had very significant banking commitments. I understand that the remaining US business is to be transferred to its bond holders. However, it appears that its Irish equity investors will lose all of their investment as a result of this failure. This will have repercussions for Anglo Irish Bank, and possibly other Irish banks, and therefore the Irish taxpayer.

Again, whoa.

In our new global economy, this means that my colleagues who are a mere half hour bike ride from me right now are sitting in cubicles worrying about their jobs as the Irish people read their newspapers and grumble about this "failure" happening in the US of A which, if they understand correctly, is essentially a bail-out situation just like the one being experienced by the US government with fat cat Wall Street execs. It's all a big fat mess.

I hope for the best, folks, for the employees of HMH here in Boston and beyond, and for the good of publishing. HMH has an incredible backlist and is too important to lose wholesale.

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