AMS Set to Acquire PGW

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Advanced Marketing Services, Inc. (AMS) announced on, January 17, that it had entered into an agreement to acquire Publishers Group West (PGW) for a reported price of about $38 million. Under the terms of the deal, PGW founder Charlie Winton will continue to serve as company president for the next year to implement the transition. AMS -- which has built its business on supplying warehouse price clubs and other large retailers -- had revenues last year of about $700 million, as reported by the New York Times. PGW had sales of over $125 million in 2001.

In many ways, the acquisition is a case of business opposites attracting. While AMS has concentrated its resources on distributing and marketing a targeted list of bestsellers in large chain stores, PGW is known for its support of leading independent and literary presses, all with a broad representation in independent bookstores.

Michael Nicita, president and CEO of AMS, said in a prepared statement that "expanding our higher-margin distribution presence is a perpetual goal" for AMS, adding that "as part of AMS, PGW should create a significant positive impact in meeting our vision of rapid growth in distribution and a continued diversification of our business model." PGW's Winton commented in the statement that "our whole team is supportive of the merger," adding that "our clients and customers are certain to appreciate AMS' world-class international platform."

The companies said that PGW executives will remain in Berkeley, California, and that PGW will retain its New York City sales office. PGW also has a 310,000-square-foot distribution facility in Reno, Nevada. Nicita told the New York Times that the two companies would remain "as separate as possible," with a shared warehouse but individual headquarters. "Now PGW gets to operate with a lot more resources and a lot larger platform," he said.

Not part of the deal is PGW's Avalon Publishing Group, an independent publishing company that is a wholly owned subsidiary of PGW. AMS noted in its announcement that "immediately prior to the acquisition," Winton and a group of PGW employees will purchase Avalon, which is comprised of two publishing divisions, a trade publishing company based in New York City and a travel reference publishing company based in Emeryville, California. The trade publishing division publishes five primary imprints: Carroll & Graf Publishers, Thunder's Mouth Press, Marlowe & Company, Seal Press, and Blue Moon Books. The travel reference division publishes the following series: Moon Handbooks, Rick Steves, Foghorn Outdoors, Road Trip USA, Travel Smart, and City Smart, as well as individual travel titles.

-- Dan Cullen