Dresdner Kleinwort Capital exits Octopus

French media group, Hachette-Livre part of the French Lagardere Media Group, has bought Octopus Publishing Group, the UK-based illustrated publishing company, backed by Dresdner Kleinwort Capital in 1998. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

In August 1998 Dresdner Kleinwort Capital (previously Dresdner Kleinwort Benson Private Equity) led the company’s GBP33 million MBO from Reed Elsevier. Bank of Scotland provided senior debt and working capital. Reed Elsevier paid GBP535 million for Octopus Publishing in 1987 and formed Reed Consumer Books. Having decided to concentrate on scientific, professional and business publishing, Reed Elsevier put the business up for sale in 1995. It failed to secure the GBP150 million asking price and the consumer divisions were sold separately. The sale of the illustrated publishing unit to Dresdner Kleinwort Capital was the last of these disposals.

Octopus now employs 250 staff and has an annual turnover in excess of GBP40 million. Through publishers Bounty, Brimax, Conran Octopus, Hamlyn, Mitchell Beazley, Miller’s and Philip’s the group has a catalogue of 100,000 titles including The Joy of Sex, Philip’s Modern School Atlas and Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book.

Also included in the sale are Octopus Television and Digital Octopus, two businesses aimed at making the group’s intellectual property and content available to wider media group. At the beginning of last year, Digital Octopus was formed through a joint venture with Bridge Media, an Internet service business. The company, which provides web, WAP and interactive TV-based content, was also funded by a GBP2.2 million investment from Elderstreet Capital Partners. It was brought back in-house in December 2000 following a restructure. Octopus Television was created in 1999 to produce TV programmes from the content of Octopus’ back catalogue.

The acquirer publishes a variety of different book types including literature, education, illustrated books, guides and encyclopaedias. These are produced by a group of more than 40 publishers in France and Europe. In 1998, Hachette-Livre bought two UK-based companies, Orion Publishing and Cassell & Co. This year it bought a Spanish educational publisher, Bruo. Hachett-Livre is part of the Lagardere Group, which as well as its media division (digital media, books, magazines and distribution services) also includes Matra Automobile and EADS, an aeronautics business.