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'Curious George' publisher Houghton Mifflin files for bankruptcy

May 21, 2012|By Tiffany Hsu
  • Houghton Mifflin, publisher of titles such as "Curious George," filed for bankruptcy Monday.
Houghton Mifflin, publisher of titles such as "Curious George,"… (Houghton Mifflin )

Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday but expects to emerge from restructuring by the end of June.

The Boston company said in a statement that it expects to eliminate $3.1 billion of debt through a debt-to-equity transaction that is backed by the “vast majority of key financial stakeholders.”

The filing, made in a New York bankruptcy court and expected for weeks, will not affect Houghton Mifflin’s daily operations nor its employees' pay and benefits, the company said.

The publisher is seeking “greater financial flexibility to pursue growth opportunities” – such as expanding its digital platform. It said it anticipates “no disruptions to our relationships with our customers, agents, authors, employees, business partners and suppliers.”

Houghton Mifflin, along with many other publishers, has struggled to keep its print products popular as e-books swarm into the market. The publisher is responsible for classic titles such as "Island of the Blue Dolphins," "The Things They Carried," the Curious George series and more.

The company, which says it provides educational products and services to 60 million students internationally, struck a deal in January to print and distribute e-books produced by a branch of Amazon.com. Earlier this month, the publisher paired up with Barnes & Noble Inc. to provide schools with bundles of digital titles loaded onto NOOK readers.

As the economy improves, the Assn. of American Publishers said revenue is up across the board in print and digital formats, increasing 27.1% in January from the same month in 2011. E-book sales for young adults and religious readers were especially strong.

In a video on Houghton Mifflin’s website, Chief Executive Linda Zecher referred to the restructuring “transformation” as “very good news for our company.”

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