The government’s lawsuit to block Penguin Random House buying Simon & Schuster goes to trial.


When the largest publisher in the country, Penguin Random House, struck a deal in the fall of 2020 to acquire its rival Simon & Schuster, publishing executives and antitrust experts predicted that the merger would draw intense scrutiny from government regulators, Alexandra Alter, Elizabeth A. Harris and David McCabe report for The New York Times.

The merger would dramatically alter the literary landscape, shrinking the number of major publishing houses — known in the industry as the Big Five — to four. (Or, as one industry analyst put it, it could create the Big One and the other three.)

Last fall, the Biden administration sued to block the $2.18 billion sale as part of its new and more aggressive stance against corporate consolidation. The trial will start on Monday, with oral arguments at the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, where Judge Florence Pan will preside.

The Justice Department and Bertelsmann, Penguin Random House’s parent company, called a parade of high-profile publishing executives as witnesses. They include Markus Dohle, the chief executive of Penguin Random House, and Jonathan Karp, the chief executive of Simon & Schuster, as well as executives from other publishing houses, literary agents and a handful of authors.