Stephen King, an American author of horror books, is battling a brand-new foe: corporate consolidation.
In an anti-trust trial to stop the $2.2 billion merger of the two largest US publishers, the author served as the key witness.
King was asked to testify by the US Department of Justice about the potential effects of the planned merger between Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster on writers.
The action “would be terrible for competition in the business,” King, 75, told the court in Washington, DC.
Both publishing firms contend that since they would continue to compete for the right to publish books after the merger is complete, there would be no reduction in competition.
King, a publishing veteran with 50 years of experience, referred to that notion as “a little bit ludicrous.”
According to reporters present in court, the writer joked, “You may as well say you’re going to have a husband and wife bidding against one other for the same house.”
Since the release of his debut book, Carrie, in 1974, Stephen King has written more than 70 books, including cult favorites like The Shining and It, which have collectively sold more than 350 million copies.
King has also grown more active on social media in the last ten years, engaging with followers and frequently urging his 6.8 million Twitter followers to support small and local bookshops.
Penguin Random House and Paramount Global, the parent company of Simon & Schuster, declared intentions to merge in November 2020.
The Justice Department filed a lawsuit to stop the transaction a year later. The government of US President Joe Biden has made increasing competition a key component of its economic strategy.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland stated after the case was announced, “American writers and consumers will pay the price of this anticompetitive combination – smaller advances for authors and eventually fewer books and less diversity for consumers.”
These accusations have been refuted by the merger’s attorneys, who assert that blocking the deal “would hurt the very authors DOJ pretends to defend.”
According to Daniel Petrocelli, Penguin’s main counsel in the trial, “the DOJ has not established, and it does not allege, that the combination will lessen competition in the selling of books.”
We are optimistic that the strong and competitive market will ensure that the purchase will strengthen rather than weaken competition.
Legal action against anti-trust violations aims to stop mergers and acquisitions from establishing market monopolies or engaging in anti-competitive behavior like price-fixing.