March 1, 2017 Last Updated 7:36 am

The Obamas swing book deals; Emmis Communications swings deal for four regional titles

Morning Brief: The once preeminent city/regional magazine publisher now only owns one print title, its hometown city magazine, Indianapolis

The president gave his not quite a State of the Union speech last night, and while much of the press reaction has been generally positive, I wondered how the speech differed much from his standard stump speech – a lot of agenda without much details. In other words, things are the same after the speech as before.

My own theory of the Trump presidency is that it will be defined by three divergent missions: for Trump, the desire to make money off being president; for Bannon, the desire to advance his white nationalist agenda; and for Ryan and the Republicans in Congress, the desire to pass legislation that they have long desired, but could not achieve due to Obama being in the White House.

It is rather ironic that on the day of Trump’s speech, the former president was signing a huge book deal with Penguin Random House. His two previous books, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream were both published through Random House imprints.

Should the current president attempt to cash in with a book deal following the end of his term, it is unlikely that he would choose to work with his last collaborator, Tony Schwartz. Schwartz was a fierce critic of Trump during the campaign and was rather dismissive of Trump’s contribution to the project.

The Associated Press, Hillel Italie:

Barack and Michelle Obama have book deals

The former president and first lady have signed with Penguin Random House, the publisher announced Tuesday. Financial terms were not disclosed for the books, which several publishers had competed for, although the deals are likely in the tens of millions of dollars…

…”We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs. Obama,” Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle said in a statement.

“With their words and their leadership, they changed the world, and every day, with the books we publish at Penguin Random House, we strive to do the same. Now, we are very much looking forward to working together with President and Mrs. Obama to make each of their books global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance.”

The Obamas were represented in negotiations by Robert Barnett and Deneen Howell of Williams & Connolly. Barnett has worked on deals with Barack Obama’s two immediate predecessors, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and with Michelle Obama’s predecessors Hillary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush.

The Obamas plans to donate a “significant portion” of their author proceeds to charity, including to the Obama Foundation. Barack Obama’s book is a strong contender to attract the largest advance for any ex-president; the previous record is believed to be $15 million for Bill Clinton’s “My Life.”

The New York Times, Alexandra Alter:

Obamas Make Book Deal With Penguin Random House

Penguin Random House acquired world rights to the books, and worldwide sales could be substantial. No decision has been made yet as to which of the company’s major imprints — which include Random House, Doubleday, Alfred A. Knopf and Crown — will publish the books. Mr. Obama’s previous books were published by Crown, which also published Mrs. Obama’s book “American Green,” about the White House garden…

…Speculation about the Obamas’ books and how much they would sell for have been circulating in the industry in recent weeks, as executives at the top publishing houses met separately with the former president and first lady. Some publishing executives who followed the bidding process said that the opening offers for Mr. Obama’s book alone were in the $18 million to $20 million range.

The publisher plans to donate one million books in the Obama family’s name to First Book, a nonprofit organization that provides books to disadvantaged children, and Open eBooks, the Washington-based partner for the 2016 White House digital education initiative. The Obamas also plan to donate part of their advances to charity, including the Obama Foundation.

Emmis Communications announced last year that it would be getting out of the city/regional magazine business. To do so, it would need to sell its titles. The first to go was Texas Monthly, which was sold to Genesis Park, LP, a partnership founded by Paul Hobby, for $25 million.

That seemed like a good price for the title. But today’s announcement feels like a fire sale to me.

Sold were Atlanta, Cincinnati, Orange Coast and Los Angeles magazines. The buyer was Troy, Michigan-based Hour Media Group, and the price was $6.5 million.

Emmis still owns one magazine: its hometown title Indianapolis.

Emmis Communications:

Emmis Sells Publishing Assets to Hour Media Group LLC

Indianapolis…Emmis Communications (Nasdaq: EMMS) has announced it has closed on the sale of Atlanta, Cincinnati, Orange Coast and Los Angeles magazines to Hour Media Group LLC.

Emmis has now divested all its publishing assets except for its hometown Indianapolis Monthly, which it intends to continue to operate.

“We have been honored to own and operate these marquee titles, with some of the most dedicated, creative employees in the business,” Emmis Chairman & CEO Jeff Smulyan said. “We wish all of them well, and hope they enjoy tremendous success in the future.”

Emmis announced on August 18, 2016, that it was pursuing strategic alternatives for its Publishing Division, sans Indianapolis Monthly. Emmis announced the sale of Texas Monthly on October 13, 2016.

“It is always difficult to make a decision to sell, but this step helps us to continue to address our debt leverage and to focus on our growth initiatives,” Smulyan concluded.

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