Monday, February 2, 2009

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is in serious trouble and I'm thoroughly disgusted. There is no excuse for a company to have been dragged into financial trouble the way HMH is.

No, it isn't that books aren't selling. Book sales on Amazon are up substantially and while they were down at Barnes & Nobles for the last quarter, earlier in the year they were rising. HMH is giving as an excuse a cutback in textbook purchases, but that is to come. It hasn't happened yet.

What actually did it was GREED. Pure and simple. Mr. O'Callaghan is known for what some refer to admiringly as a "freewheeling" person. Greedy is a much better word for it and with no background that made him a good owner for a company that was doing well until people with no knowledge of publishing got hold of it.

The fact is they borrowed FAR more than this company could possibly repay. They knew it. It's known as killing the goose, having run up a debt load somewhere around TEN TIMES their normal gross income. TEN TIMES!

A "fire sale" may well end up this fine old company's fate. We can just HOPE the next owner actually knows SOMETHING about publishing.

What the hell were bankers thinking making this kind of loans? Well, we know they weren't.

But don't get the mistaken idea that this has ANYTHING to do with publishing as an industry or how publishing will do in the future. This is someone (or multiple someones) running a company into the ground through piss-poor management. It is not the mark of changes in the publishing industry.

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