February 17, 2018

U.K. Reports Say Springer Is On the Block

By Andrew Albanese

Reports in the U.K. last week suggest private equity firms Cinven and Candover are weighing the sale of Springer Science and ­Business Media, the second largest academic publisher behind Reed Elsevier.According to the Guardian prospective purchasers have until the end of this week to “register their interest,” according to sources. Springer is valued at €1.65 billion ($2.2 billion) on Candover’s web site.  

Of course, a global recession and credit crunch could hamper any proposed sale, and Springer officials need only look to competitor Reed Elsevier for evidence of that. In late 2008, Reed Elsevier was forced to shelve its plan to sell leading trade publisher Reed Business Information (parent company of Library Journal Academic Newswire) after it failed to receive an adequate bid in a crashing economy.

OA market test 
Sources told the Guardian that interest in Springer would likely come from equity firms. Springer brought in some €880 million ($1.16 billion) last year. The publisher was acquired by Cinven and Candover from Bertelsmann in 2003 for €1.05 billion $1.4 billion), and merged with Kluwer, bought for £600 million ($860 million) in 2002.

The deal would also be something of a market test for commercial open access “experiments,” as Springer has been one of, if not the most aggressive commercial publishers in the world when it comes to open access. Springer acquired pioneering commercial open access publisher BioMed Central in 2008. It has also struck two groundbreaking open access deals with major institutions. One with the University of California (UC) Libraries, and one with Germany’s prestigious Max Planck Society (MPS).

The Max Planck deal, the first of its scale, came after a highly-publicized split, and was billed as “a two-year experiment.” In addition, Springer has made similar deals with UKB, a consortium of the universities, the Royal Library of the Netherlands, and with the Georg-August University of Göttingen, which also waive author fees for those institutional researchers choosing to submit to Springer journals using its open access option, Open Choice.

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