News Corp. unit buying Thomas Nelson

CEO of local company says HarperCollins brings infrastructure to grow faster

Publishing giant HarperCollins, a unit of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., has signed a deal to buy Thomas Nelson from private-equity firm Kohlberg & Co. for an undisclosed sum.

The purchase, which is expected to close later this year, will bring 213-year-old Thomas Nelson under the umbrella of one of the world's media groups and the owner of fellow Christian-oriented publisher Zondervan. Company officials on Monday said both companies will maintain separate operations, but did not comment on possible layoffs at Thomas Nelson, which employs about 600 people.

“HarperCollins’ global print and digital publishing platform, which includes e-book distribution into more than 175 markets, Print-on-Demand, Digital-to-Print at Retail, and worldwide marketing reach, provides an opportunity to further expand the readership of Thomas Nelson’s distinguished authors,” said Brian Murray, president and CEO of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, in a statement. “Thomas Nelson adds further balance to our existing publishing programs. Its broad inspirational appeal is a good complement to Zondervan, which will continue to publish books consistent with its mission.”

Thomas Nelson CEO Mark Schoenwald, who only took the helm of the company in April, called the acquisition "an attractive strategic fit." Schoenwald also told Publishers Weekly the deal gives his team the platforms to accelerate its digital and international growth plans, saying "they can be a multiplier for us."

Kohlberg had owned a majority of Thomas Nelson since the spring of last year, when it bought out Intermedia Partners. In announcing the deal then, Kohlberg officials said they would recruit new board members to the company. Among them: Former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman.