Blackwell Publishing sold for £572m by Maggie Hartford

5:25pm Friday 17th November 2006
The Blackwell family has ended a long-running feud about the future of its publishing company by selling it to a US rival for £572m.

John Wiley & Sons said it had received irrevocable commitments from the principal shareholders.

Nigel Blackwell, Blackwell Publishing’s chairman and largest shareholder, is expected to net £240m from the deal with his 45 per cent stake.

He clashed with his uncle Toby, 73, who pushed for a sale in 2002 to rival publisher Taylor & Francis, based at Milton Park, near Abingdon, which had approached the group with an informal offer of £300m.

Blackwell’s, which traces its history back to a 12-square foot bookshop opened in 1879 in Broad Street, Oxford, is one of Britain’s biggest and best-known privately-held businesses.

It has two businesses – publishing and retailing. The bookshops and library business, which have their headquarters at Beaver House in Hythe Bridge Street, are not included in the deal.

Blackwell president Bob Campbell said: “The businesses are completely separate, but have common shareholders. Nigel and Toby were here for a long time helping to conclude the negotiations and left very happily in the same car.”

He said Wiley had paid a “substantial sum” into the pension fund and was planning to continue the final-salary pension scheme.

He said: “As far as I know there is no intention of leaving the Oxford site.”

Nigel Blackwell said: “Wiley and Blackwell are two great firms sharing the same cultural values, and in particular, a common publishing ethic. Marrying them together makes perfect sense both commercially and for the benefit of the global academic and professional community.”

Wiley expects to take over early in 2007. Most of Blackwell’s 216 shareholders live in the Oxford area, and include several current and ex-employees.

Blackwell publishes journals, books and online content on science, technology, medicine, the social sciences and humanities. Many of them are produced for learned societies – a market it shares with Wiley.

But Mr Campbell said they were in complementary areas with very little overlap.

The publishing business is the profit-driver of the Blackwell family. The most recent figures available show that the bookshops lost almost £7m for 2004, against a profit of £900,000 in 2003.