Advent International agrees to sell Thalia to strategic bidder consortium led by the Herder publishing family

Advent International sells Thalia, the leading book retailer in German-speaking Europe, after a successful restructuring and realignment of the Company’s store and product portfolio and relaunch of its online and digital offering

Thalia will be acquired by Herder, a German publishing family; together with the Kreke family, who has been invested into the Company for more than twenty years; Leif Goeritz, a digital entrepreneur; and Michael Busch, Thalia’s CEO

The new shareholders will support management’s strategy to make “Thalia” synonymous to “Lesekultur” (culture of reading) in the digital age. Thalia’s leading market position will be further strengthened through investments in both omni-channel service and retailing as well as e-reading

Hagen/Freiburg, 11 June, 2016 – A consortium led by Herder, a reputable publishing family, has agreed to acquire Thalia, the leading book retailer in German-speaking Europe owned by Advent International and the Kreke family. Advent International and the Kreke family acquired Thalia in 2012, at the time a subsidiary of the former Douglas Holding AG. The Kreke family will remain invested in Thalia as a significant minority shareholder.

Following Thalia’s successful restructuring and realignment, the new shareholders will contribute complementary capabilities to continue the Company’s growth strategy. As one of the oldest publishing families in the German-speaking region, the Herder family has long cultivated the passion for the cultural heritage provided by books. Over the last decade, Herder has complemented this passion through successful investments in a number of digital and mobile content businesses. The Kreke family has been invested in Thalia and other leading retailers for several decades and will continue to make its longstanding retail know-how available to the management team.

Today, with digitalisation changing people’s reading habits and impacting the entire publishing and book retailing industry, digital expertise plays a crucial role, in addition to an attractive product portfolio and store layout. Going forward, this expertise will be provided by digital entrepreneur Leif Goeritz, who has many years of experience in the digital transformation of companies. Together with the Herder family, he acquired the leading app agency, Smart Mobile Factory, in 2014. Goeritz, who will head Thalia’s supervisory board, says: “Together with the long-term CEO Michael Busch, it is our vision to make “Thalia” synonymous with “Lesekultur” (reading culture) in the digital age.”

Over the last four years under Advent’s ownership, Thalia evolved into the leading cross-channel bookseller and is, in terms of revenue, the top ranking retail bookselling company in the German-speaking region. Advent supported management in the successful realignment of the Company’s product offering; today, the Company generates over 80 percent of its revenues from books and adjacent products. The remainder is generated from complementary product ranges such as games and toys, stationery products, music CDs and DVDs. Under Advent’s ownership, Thalia’s store network of over 280 stores was streamlined and modernised and an innovative online shop as well as industry leading hardware and software solutions in its digital business were introduced. Today, the Company is firmly established as the leading bookseller and driving force in the DACH region’s high-growth e-reading market. The new owners are committed to strengthen Thalia’s position and to continue and expand Thalia’s successful strategy in the online and digital segment. This also includes further investing into the tolino Alliance, Thalia’s successful alliance with other booksellers and Deutsche Telekom, to develop and market the tolino brand of e-readers.

Ranjan Sen, Managing Partner at Advent International, says: “After a successful realignment, Thalia emerged as a very healthy business with excellent growth prospects. We are extremely pleased that we were able to make a significant contribution to this development and see the hand over to the new owners as the right step for the Company to continue on its successful growth trajectory. In future, Thalia will be supported by strategic partners who will provide additional impetus and, as such, further strengthen Thalia’s market position.”

Publisher Manuel Herder explains: “Thalia, as a leading bookseller, has repeatedly proven its ability to anticipate and successfully shape trends and structural changes in book retailing. At the same time, the Company represents like no other the preservation of the high street reading experience, placing the individual reader at its centre. We have had intensive discussions over the past several weeks and we fully share and support management’s values and long-term vision for Thalia.”

Michael Busch, CEO of Thalia, says: “After several successful years of significant and necessary change as well as close and trustful cooperation with Advent International and the Kreke family as our owners, we now open a new chapter. We look forward to working with our new majority shareholders and guide Thalia into its next phase of development.”

Henning Kreke, a representative of the Kreke family, adds: “In recent years, Thalia has been able to further expand its position as the leading bookselling company in the German-speaking region. The new owners are firmly convinced of the chances of omni-channel book retailing and intend to continue the Company’s successful strategy with the existing management team.”

The parties agreed not to disclose the purchase price. The transaction is subject to antitrust clearance.

About Thalia

With over 280 bookstores in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Thalia is the leading book retailer in the German-speaking region. Based on its expertise and customer focus across traditional high-street bookstores and online shops, Thalia offers expert guidance and an inspiring customer experience in both the “real” and “virtual” world of books. This omni-channel approach combines time-honoured bookselling and a passion for promoting reading culture with a determined effort to embrace manifold new opportunities of books in the digital era. In March 2013, Thalia partnered with other booksellers and Deutsche Telekom (technology provider) to launch the tolino brand and has since marketed six e-readers including, most recently, tolino shine 2 HD and tolino vision 3 HD as well as the entry-level device tolino page. With a portfolio of over 1 million e-books, the partners have one of the largest e-book offerings in the German-speaking region. Thalia was founded in 1919 in Hamburg in the building of the Thalia theatre.

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About the Herder family

The Herder family has owned and led the Verlag Herder publishing house for more than 200 years. Its founder, Bartholomä Herder, published the company’s first book in 1798. One year earlier, in 1797, he became a shareholder in a book store. Twenty years ago, the publishing family sold its book stores that carried the name Herder to the Kreke family who integrated the stores into the company that has become Thalia today.

Since 1999, Manuel Herder has been at the helm of the Herder publishing house, as a member of the sixth generation of his family. Under his management, the publishing house has increasingly turned to digital, audio and mobile content and made targeted investments in several online start-ups.

About the Kreke family

The Kreke family is an entrepreneurial family with a long standing tradition in the retail sector. Based on a new retail concept from the USA, the entrepreneur Herbert Eklöh established a chain of self-service stores in the 1960s. From then on, the group of companies expanded into further areas – among others, the group, that was later called Douglas Holding, comprised the Hussel confectionery chain, the Christ jewellery stores, the perfumery chain Douglas and the book retailer Thalia. After reorganising the group and focusing it on successful multi-channel segments, the Kreke family is a shareholder in the retail companies Douglas and Thalia.

About Leif Erik Goeritz

Leif Goeritz is an entrepreneur in the digital sector. Between 2005 and 2008 Goeritz, who holds a doctorate in economics, was managing director of the German Centre Beijing, a subsidiary of German regional bank Landesbank Baden-Wurtemberg. Subsequently, he worked at The Boston Consulting Group as a project manager. Since 2013, Leif Goeritz has been an entrepreneur and developer of digital businesses. In the same year, he was appointed council to the management board of Herder GmbH. Since 2015, he has been managing director of Smart Mobile Factory GmbH, which he had acquired in 2014 together with the Herder family.

About Michael Busch

Michael Busch is the CEO of Thalia Bücher GmbH. He has worked for Thalia for more than 20 years and has been a member of the management team since 1998. In this role, he successfully steered the company through the challenges presented by digitalisation together with his team. With entrepreneurial spirit and a feeling for future topics, Michael Busch led Thalia through various changes and managed the latest realignment of the business together with the majority shareholder Advent.

About Advent International

Founded in 1984, Advent International is one of the largest and most experienced global private equity investors. The firm has invested in more than 300 private equity transactions in 40 countries and, as of March 31, 2016 has €37 billion in assets under management. With offices on four continents, Advent has established a globally integrated team of over 170 investment professionals across North America, Europe, Latin America and Asia. The firm focuses on investments in five core sectors, including business and financial services;  healthcare; industrial; retail, consumer and leisure; and technology, media and telecom.

After more than 30 years dedicated to international investing, Advent remains committed to partnering with management teams to deliver sustained revenue and earnings growth for its portfolio companies.

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Media contacts

Advent International
Anna Sperber
Hering Schuppener Consulting
Tel: +49 69 92 18 74 78
Mob: +49 171 86 56 941

Julia Hattrup
Thalia Bücher GmbH
Tel: +49 2331 690-8584
Mob: +49 160 58 84 765

Andrea Wolf
Verlag Herder GmbH
Tel: +49 89 5403188-24

Familie Kreke
Sebastian Mewißen
Hering Schuppener Consulting
Tel: +49 211 430 79-226
Mob: +49 151 15 17 66 32

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