November 21, 2017

Follett Acquires Baker & Taylor

Follet_BakerandTaylorTNIn a move that creates the world’s largest single distributor of curated content for librarians and educators with $3.6 billion in combined annual sales, Follett Corporation today announced the acquisition of Baker & Taylor from private equity firm Castle Harlan Partners. Baker & Taylor will continue to operate as before, retaining its existing management team and Charlotte, NC headquarters. George F. Coe, Baker & Taylor’s President and CEO, will continue to lead the division with the new title Follett Group President, Baker & Taylor and Follett School Solutions, reporting to Follett President and CEO Ray A. Griffith.  Nader Qaimari, who was named general manager of Follett’s PreK-12 business last October, has been promoted to president of Follett School Solutions, and will report to Coe. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The move also reunited Follett with certain assets of Book Wholesalers, Inc. (BWI) which it sold to Baker & Taylor in 2012. BWI specializes in providing children’s and young adult books and audiovisual materials to public libraries, and the sale came as part of a strategic decision to focus on the PreK-12 market.

Follett and Baker & Taylor serve complementary markets, and officials expect the acquisition to lead to new insights, and potentially new products for both public and K-12 libraries.

Follett is “by far the leading supplier of schools in the education market, K-12, and [Baker & Taylor is] by far the leading supplier in the public library sector, so one thing that these two companies bring together is the development of content that can be shared between schools and public libraries,” Coe told LJ. “These two companies now can develop services and products to benefit both entities…. We’re very excited about building that model.”

In addition to distributing books, video, music, and digital content, the combined company will bring together a range of library management solutions, including Baker & Taylor’s selection and ordering tool Title Source 360, CollectionHQ collection management suite, and Axis 360 digital media library and circulation platform, and Follett’s Destiny Library Manager K-12 integrated library system (ILS) and Titlewave K-12 curriculum support and ordering tool.

Eventually, the combined company plans “to leverage the best of these technologies and other capabilities to drive even greater innovation and value,” for public and school libraries, classrooms, retailers, and Follett’s network of 1,250 college bookstores, according to an announcement.

“The capabilities, expertise, and technologies of Follett and Baker & Taylor are very complementary, making this a natural partnership of two trusted industry leaders,” Griffith said in the announcement. “Our unique insights, curated content and innovative services will help librarians and educators more effectively meet the evolving learning needs of their communities.”

Qaimari, whose 17-year career in the library field has included executive positions at Gale Cengage, told LJ that “the discussion around how public libraries and school libraries can better collaborate is always top of mind, but I don’t think anyone has really figured out how to do it yet…. With our mutual and independent capabilities, we should really be able to do some interesting things with libraries.”

Otherwise, officials emphasized Baker & Taylor will continue to operate as before, and that current partner relationships and processes will remain unchanged.

For more than two decades, Baker & Taylor has been owned by a succession of private equity companies, including W.R. Grace & Co., The Carlyle Group, Willis Stein & Partners, and Castle Harlan. By contrast, Follett is family-owned. Coe was optimistic regarding what this will mean for long-term investment and growth.

“Private equity [companies] leverage the ability to use credit to buy companies, and companies that are bought by private equity need to pay back those credit facilities. Our capital structure has been one that we always had to be conscious of [this]…. Now being part of …a company that understands where we’re going and what we’re doing—the capital investments that benefit both sides are crucial to us….. I think everybody here is extremely excited to be part of the Follett organization.”

Private equity owned companies often focus on cutting costs and making their businesses more efficient, Qaimari added, “because they’re trying to find an exit strategy” to sell a company for a profit. “Follett is a family company, and their focus is really investing in the business and helping it grow, because they want to defend their legacy for decades to come.”

“Acquiring Baker & Taylor marks a major milestone for Follett that expands the possibilities of our two businesses,” Todd A. Litzsinger, chairman of Follett, said in an announcement.  “Through our support of schools, public libraries, colleges, local bookstores and retailers, our teams are uniquely positioned to help communities everywhere strengthen literacy and learning.  On behalf of the Follett family, I’m excited and proud to welcome the Baker & Taylor team to Follett.”

Matt Enis About Matt Enis

Matt Enis (menis@mediasourceinc.com; @matthewenis on Twitter) is Senior Editor, Technology for Library Journal.

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Comments

  1. I have a book published by Amazon, Inc. in 2014. The audience is mostly ESL students. The name of the book is Dictionary of American English Idioms and Slang. There are 5,000 entries. Is there a way to get this book on a list by Follett/Baker and Taylor? Or, because the book is available through Amazon, Inc., I am prevented having it publicized by Follett/Baker and Taylor? Please forgive my naivety, but I am unfamiliar with the protocol regarding book distribution.

    Thank you for clearing this matter up for me.

    Sincerely, J.D. Hunter