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Posts Tagged ‘Consortium’

Today in AMS: Annual Meeting Delayed (again), More From Radio Free

The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that AMS has, as expected, postponed its annual meeting more than a month following the resignation of one of its directors. Robert Robotti resigned in the wake of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing and he had advocated the company go ahead with its annual meeting slated for January 24 – a meeting that would have been the company’s first in four years. Now it’s been rescheduled for February 23, and the company named Marc Ravitz, executive vice president of New York’s Grace & White Co., to fill the vacancy left by Robotti. Grace & White, together with affiliated persons and entities, controls 12 percent of Advanced Marketing’s stock.

On the Perseus & PGW front, the bankruptcy court is still scheduled to meet on February 12 to decide whether the 70 cents on the dollar offer is doable. Publishers Weekly’s Jim Milliot and Claire Kirch report on the “alarm bells” set off by the potential deal. “How can we maintain our visibility when we are becoming an ever-smaller piece of a larger puzzle?” asked Michael Wiegers, executive editor at Copper Canyon Press, which is distributed by Perseus’s Consortium unit. Another Consortium client, Jim Perlman of Holy Cow Press, said he is concerned that with the addition of PGW, Consortium “will lose their ability to handle books with the knowledge and concern they’ve displayed in the past.” Several PGW clients voiced similar questions, wondering where they will fit in at Perseus. “The viability of our list in this marketplace depends in part on a fairly intimate familiarity with what we do,” one PGW publisher said, and another wondered what the “pecking order” will be when all the companies are combined.

As always, for the skinny on the failing fortunes of AMS, check out new offerings from Radio Free PGW. Today they look at the $19 million in books that AMS lost at their Indiana distribution center in 2004, why Perseus may require even longer “float” times than did PGW; and also point people to Mr. Popman’s Place for a breakdown of what might possibly be the real reason AMS hasn’t reported its earnings in several years (hint: a faulty computer system.)

Finally, a disgruntled AMS employee (or management type? Who knows) has decided to strike back. And so we get the lovely “AMS Has WMD” blog, which seems solely designed to take potshots at Radio Free PGW. Make of it what you will, whether from a trolling or humorous perspective…

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Today in AMS: Consortium has its say, AMS Viability

Radio Free PGW continues its daily accounting of the AMS bankruptcy fallout, and its top post this morning is quite the doozy: reports from Consortium, the distributor bought by Perseus last summer. Turns out that Perseus, upon acquisition, told Consortium faithful that “nothing here is going to change.” Fast forward eight weeks and the story became this: “‘We respect the contributions of each and every one of you and some of your departments are going to be separated from the company.’ The man couldn’t even tell us we were fired!” More to the point, “two weeks ago, we trained the people who will replace us.” Not exactly a rosy sign for incoming PGW employees, now is it?

Meanwhile, PW Daily’s Jim Milliot, aside from reporting more on Perseus’s “white knight” plan for PGW publishers, has more on the bankruptcy court’s rejection of Simon & Schuster‘s bid to reclaim about $5 million in inventory from AMS’s warehouses. In its objection to yesterday’s ruling, S&S’s attorneys used strong language about the future prospects of AMS, arguing that actions taken by the banks and AMS “have likely doomed this case to an inevitable liquidation.” Specifically, S&S contended that AMS has “refused to propose a reasonable inventory returns program and have taken the unsupportable position that no returns should be credited against pre-petition sales even though the returned books were sold under such invoices.” In order to protect their interests, S&S and most major publishers (with the current exception of Penguin) have stopped shipping to AMS on a post-petition basis, S&S said, and if that doesn’t change “it is unlikely AMS has any reasonable chance of successfully reorganizing.”

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Today in AMS: WSJ Picks up the Story

When it comes to the Wall Street Journal, I’ve learned not to ask the obligatory “what took so long?” question because they seem to go through about triple the research and vetting standards that most of the major newspapers do in order to file stories. And by delaying on the AMS bankruptcy debacle, they give the story – and the perilous situation for Publishers Group West publishers – new life. Most of Jeff Trachtenberg‘s piece focuses on Perseus‘s plan to pay PGW’s publisher clients 70 cents on the dollar for their claims in exchange for dropping their claims against AMS and sign an extended book-distribution agreement with Perseus. Not only has Avalon, which announced its move to Perseus earlier this month, signed on, but so now has Grove/Atlantic.

“It’s a natural extension of what we’ve been doing the last few years,” said David Steinberger, Perseus’s chief executive. Steinberger said it will cost an estimated $20 million to pay PGW clients for their claims. That money could be paid out in a matter of weeks, if the court approves the deal. But Soft Skull‘s Richard Nash is one publisher who is worried about his prospects for survival in the wake of bankruptcy. That’s because Soft Skull is owed $110,000 by PGW and anticipates big bills as booksellers send back unsold copies from the holiday season. Soft Skull is debited for the wholesale price of each returned book and so far, those returns total $20,000 this month. Nash is also $250,000 in debt, including $40,000 from family members that he considers a personal loan.

If Perseus is successful, it will have an estimated 250 independent book-publishing distribution clients. And that’s where it becomes tricky. Because if every one of PGW’s clients signs on with Perseus, it gives the distribution company a tremendous amount of power. Aside from their in-house imprints, they are also responsible for distributing books under the CDS and Consortium arms, totaling approximately 120 separate publishers. Add in PGW’s approximately 150 publishers and suddenly, the vast majority of independent publishers owe their abilities to get their books into bookstores to a single company. And if the AMS mess has proved one thing, it’s that the perceived autonomy PGW had ended up amounting to very little. Which is why, as Radio Free PGW points out, it’s a good idea to look at those prospective contracts very, very closely.

Today in AMS: PGW Conference Calls, Bankruptcy Court Hearings

Publishers Lunch reports that Publishers Group West clients were explained in a conference call yesterday he details of the offer being formulated by Perseus Books Group, which has already secured distribution rights for Avalon Publishing Group and its imprints. The rough plan is for Perseus to pay 70 cents on the dollar of what clients are owed up to the date of the bankruptcy filing. PGW would continue operating as is for the next six months before clients accepting the Perseus offer would move over to their distribution facility. Though other offers could still be tendered, 70 cents on the dollar is a lot higher than what PGW clients were expecting.

So on the face of it, this looks like Perseus could well be PGW’s savior – or is it? Never mind that already the company is responsible for CDS and Consortium clients, and adding the full roster of PGW clients would give it a gigantic stake in independent publishing, with the ramifications and consequences still very much up in the air. Never mind that there’s no word on which of PGW’s clients were included in the conference call, as grumblings have reached GalleyCat‘s ears of “musical chairs”-like prioritization, potentially leaving some struggling independent publishers out in the cold, with little recourse but to shut up shop. In other words, the news sounds good – but optimism is far from guaranteed.

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Today in AMS: Avalon Signs with Perseus

Publishers Lunch reported late yesterday that the Avalon Publishing Group, which includes Carroll & Graf, Shoemaker & Hoard, Seal Press, Thunder’s Mouth Press, Nation Books, Marlowe & Company and Avalon Travel Publishing, has signed a letter of intent to be acquired by the Perseus Books Group. (AP picked up the story this morning.) Terms were not available, but Avalon is said to have been generating about $32 million annually. Charlie Winton, Avalon’s president (and former PGW founder) will stay in place during a “transition period” and then will serve as a consultant to Perseus, including advising on “how to further develop Perseus’ client services business through which Perseus provides sales and distribution services to independent publishers.”

Since Avalon was one of the most high-profile clients of Publishers Group West, this is big news -and it remains to be seen, as Michael Cader pointed out, what this news means for the rest of PGW’s 150-odd publisher clients. Make what you will of Perseus CEO David Steinberger‘s comments in his statement about the new deal: “Charlie and I are already working together on a proposal to AMS, PGW and PGW clients, all of whom are facing a very challenging situation. We have talked to a number of clients and we are in discussions with AMS.” Winton says, “We think a path can be found that would benefit all parties. Because of its two distribution lines – Consortium and Perseus Distribution – Perseus is ideally positioned to lead this initiative.”

For Winton, the sale to Perseus marks the end of a five-year odyssey with AMS that began in 2002 (and included his replacement as PGW’s head by current CEO Rich Freese in 2003.) And as Pat Holt (of Holt Uncensored fame) predicted back when AMS bought PGW, “this marriage between distributors with conflicting philosophies is going to hit some purty stormy patches.” Did it ever – and Winton’s necessary defection may well signal even more defections, whether to Perseus or to different distribution waters. This morning, the anonymous Radio Free PGW blog added its own take on the story with a part history, part obituary of PGW as it once was.

Independent Publishers Get Hurt by AMS Chapter 11 Filing

Declaring bankruptcy isn’t exactly the best way to begin the new year, but that’s exactly what has happened as Advanced Marketing Services filed Chapter 11 papers on December 29. The full text filing is available via PW Daily, and looking through the list of its top creditors – scrolling past the instantly eye-popping numbers of $43 million owed to Random House and $26 million to Simon & Schuster, the real story begins: the plight of the independent publishers.

That’s because many of them – over 150, in fact – use Publishers Group West as their distributor. PGW, over 30 years old now, had been an independent distribution entity until AMS bought them in 2002. And even though PGW had been considered an autonomous unit within AMS, that only goes so far, especially when money owing is concerned. Because even though the volumes at play do not compare to what’s owed to the top corporate publishing companies, it’s all about the percentage of revenues – so companies like Avalon ($2.3 million), Cooks Illustrated ($1.5 million), Good Books ($970,000), McSweeney’s, North Atlantic Books, Milkweed and Soft Skull, to name a select few of PGW’s clients, are about to take a severe hit, what with expected revenues for the last three months – key months for all publishers, small or otherwise – suddenly disappearing.

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