Springer announced last week that it bought the open access publisher BioMed Central. There’s an announcement about the acquisition on the Springer site, but nothing at BioMed Central’s. The latest communication from BioMed Central, dated October 10th, is a news release about an article on wound-healing, featured in the newly launched journal Fibrogenesis & Tissue Repair. Makes me wonder if the know they’re now part of Springer. Publisher Matthew Cockerill apparently announced the sale internally in an email to BioMed Central employees. Internal email, but leaving the public announcement solely to Springer? A bit odd.
Also interesting that a major — and traditional — publisher bought an open access publisher. Some wll see this as validating the open access business model, while others will see it as selling out open access. It’s certainly true that scientific publishing has recognized the inevitability of some form of open access publishing and it will be interesting to see how Springer manages its new acquisition.
The cover stories for the March/April 2008 issue of ONLINE were about private equity and the information industry. It appears as if private equity companies are still on the move. Hot on the heels of news that Informa and United Business Media are in merger talks, the next rumor was that Candover and Cinven is considering making a bid for Informa as well. Informa owns many of the brands and products familiar to information professionals. They’ve got Citeline (clinical trials info), Clinica (a newsletter for the device and diagnostic industry), Datamonitor, IBC (market research), Insurance Daily (a newspaper for the industry), Lloyds (which includes Lloyds List and other shipping information), Ovum (more market research), Patent World, Pharmaprojects, Routledge (publisher), Scrip (newsletter for the pharmaceutical industry), Taylor & Francis (publisher), and Verdict Research, among others. UBM owns PR Newswire and CMP (publisher of hundreds of trade press titles). Candover, partnership with Cinven, owns Springer Science + Business Media (acquired in September 2003 for $1.23 billion). It also owned Bureau van Dijk from 2004 to 2007. What would it mean to researchers if either Candover or UBM acquired Informa? That’s hard to say. As Richard Hulser said in his March/April article, there are both benefits and drawbacks to private equity’s involvement with information companies. Certainly the trade press elements of the Informa portfolio fit very well with UBM’s CMP business. Its pharmaceutical products fit well with Springer. The question really is whether either potential acquirer would leave Informa as is or split it up into niches. It’s easy to see how to carve out pharma, insurance, and market research, possibly even general publishing. Who benefits the most if Informa is acquired? Apparently it’s the company’s new finance director, according to a story in the Telegraph, who will take home about $400,000 if he’s made redundant. Nice money for a few months’ work.