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From now on, we buy our smut from Rupert Murdoch: Torstar is selling Harlequin

From now on, we buy our smut from Rupert Murdoch: Torstar is selling Harlequin
(Image: Murdoch: David Shankbone)

Harlequin—international romance-novel publisher, ripper of a million bodices—is based in Toronto and owned by Torstar, the Toronto Star‘s parent company. Except now, if all goes according to plan, only one of those things will remain true.

There are no plans to move Harlequin out of town, but the Post reports that a change of ownership is in the offing. News Corp, billionaire Rupert Murdoch‘s publishing division, is buying the company for $455 million. In an interview with the Star, Torstar CEO David Holland tried to put the best face on the sale. “We concluded it was a good opportunity to exit the Harlequin business at an excellent price,” he told the paper. And yet to outsiders, the move is surprising. Harlequin was seen as an economic engine for Torstar. In fact, the Star reports that the romance-novel business accounted for about a third of the company’s consolidated revenue in 2013. The deal still needs approval from regulators and shareholders, but the shareholders, at least, are expected to approve overwhelmingly. Torstar stock is up 15 per cent today. The company expects to use some of the proceeds from the sale to pay down its debt.

Assuming the sale clears those regulatory hurdles, Harlequin will become part of HarperCollins (which is owned by News Corp), and Torstar’s 39-year history as a high-minded media company that also publishes book-length wish fulfillment for ladies who kind of want to date a handsome werewolf will be at an end. We suspect Harlequin will have an easier time fitting in with Murdoch’s holdings.

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