November 27, 2015

Audiobook Giant Recorded Books Sold To Private Equity Firm

Recorded Books logoRecorded Books, one of the industry leaders in the audiobook market and a major supplier of the audiobooks, ebooks, and other electronic content to libraries, has been purchased by the private investment firm Wasserstein & Co., LP. The company was sold by Haights Cross Communications, which has owned it since 1999. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Recorded Books was founded in 1979, and has grown into among the largest providers of audiobooks on the planet, boasting a catalog of more than 8,000 audiobook titles and serving both retail and library customers. In addition to its place in the U.S. market, the company also owns W.F. Howes Ltd., one of the leading audiobook publishers in the United Kingdom.

In recent years, Recorded Books expanded the suite of services it provides to its library customers. In 2011, the company partnered with digital magazine distributor Zinio to launch Zinio for Libraries, which offers patrons cover-to-cover access to thousands of magazines, and was named Best New Database by Library Journal in 2012. Last year, the company formed a similar partnership with Indieflix, providing a library-ready platform for the independent feature, short film, and documentary streaming service.

In addition to streaming video and audio, Recorded Books has worked in recent years to step up as a distributor of ebooks to libraries via its OneClickdigital platform. Earlier this year, the company brought titles from Random House into its distribution fold, raising the number of ebook titles they offer to more than 81,000. Despite these expansions, Matt Walker, former VP of Recorded Books, told LJ last year that “our core business remains audio books and we have made our quality recordings available digitally through our OneClickdigital platform.” Recorded Books’ importance to the library market is only increased by the fact that audiobook giant Audible, owned by, will not sell its wares to libraries. Brilliance Audio, which used to supply audiobooks to libraries via OverDrive and is also owned by Amazon, stopped selling audiobooks to libraries in early 2012.

According to Troy Juliar, senior vice president of content for Recorded Books, the company’s good collegial relationship with libraries was something that made it an attractive purchase for the new owner, and something the company intends to continue. “Wasserstein invested in us because of our great record with libraries,” Juliar told LJ. “We want to make sure our ebooks get well established there, and that we continue to be creative in offering digital audio and ebooks in a way that meets the needs of libraries and patrons.”

In a statement, president and CEO Rich Freese said, “The strategic partnership provides us with the resources to further broaden our content offerings and services for customers, and accelerate our growth into additional global markets.”

Under the ownership of Wasserstein & Co., Recorded Books will join the firm’s existing stable of publishing industry holdings, including Penton Media, ALM Media, and New York Magazine.

“With a proven management team, a portfolio of high quality exclusive content, and proprietary technology, Recorded Books is well-positioned to capitalize on the shift from physical audiobook formats to digital content,” Wasserstein & Co. co-managing partner Anup Bagaria said in a statement. “We look forward to working closely with the Recorded Books team as it continues to build on its long-standing customer relationships and track record of strong growth.”

Ian Chant About Ian Chant

Ian Chant is a former editor at LJ and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Scientific American and Popular Mechanics and on NPR.

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