Any Brit kid who grew up with a love of toy soldiers, model making, war stories, military history, roleplaying games, or wildlife – which probably accounts for most of the now-adult population – will probably have encountered Osprey Books somewhere in their development. These marvelous illustrated folio-style slim volumes with their beautifully detailed paintings of soldiers and materiel of all periods were a staple of my childhood. And now Osprey Publishing, the independent press behind the series, has been snapped up by Bloomsbury Publishing.

According to Bloomsbury’s announcement:

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (“Bloomsbury”) announces that it has today completed the acquisition of the entire issued share capital of Osprey Publishing Ltd (“Osprey”), the Oxford-based military and natural history publisher, from private equity ownership, principally The Third Alcuin Fund LP, a fund managed by Alcuin Capital Partners LLP. The consideration of £4.6 million [$7.15 million] was satisfied by the payment of £3.2 million [$5 million] in cash on completion and the issue of 869,054 new Bloomsbury Ordinary shares to the value of £1.4 million [$2.2 million], which constitute approximately 1.2 per cent. of Bloomsbury’s outstanding share capital. Osprey had approximately £0.3 million [$0.46 million] of cash at the time of acquisition.

For anyone used to private equity transactions the £4.6 million consideration is an extremely small figure in an industry used to doing deals at least one hundred times that value – Osprey changed hands for what amounts to chump change in private equity terms. Given that Bloomsbury parted with 1.2 percent of its “outstanding share capital” as part of the deal, this was hardly a merger of equals, and you wonder if Osprey’s independence couldn’t just have been left untrammeled, especially as “Osprey generated £7.0 million [$11 million] of revenue and £0.3 million of adjusted earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortisation in the year ended 31 December 2013. Gross assets at that date were £4.5 million [$7 million].”

Bloomsbury at least is another independent publisher – albeit one that grew fat from the good sense of picking up the Harry Potter series from the young J.K. Rowling. All the same, considering the dumbing down that publishing consolidation has effected elsewhere, I hope Osprey can keep its independent DNA and not be assimilated.


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