International takeover strips Reed of name

By Linda Herrick

Famed New Zealand book publisher Reed Publishing has lost the right to use its 100-year-old name - a name which has published a who's who of writers ranging from Barry Crump to Janet Frame to Witi Ihimaera.

From this week, Reed Publishing, founded by A. H. and A. W. Reed, has been forced to change its name to Raupo Publishing (NZ).

The change is part of a deal between Reed Publishing NZ's latest owners, London-based Pearson, which owns Pearson Education NZ-Penguin Group NZ, and European company Reed Elsevier, which specialises in science and education publications.

It's the latest move in Reed's complicated history of takeovers and mergers since 1983, when the Reed family sold the last of its shares to a British company called ABP, under which it became Reed Methuen. That was just one of several name changes before Reed Publishing NZ was established.

Reed Publishing NZ eventually became a tiny offshoot of Reed Elsevier's Harcourt base, which was sold earlier this year to the Pearson-Penguin group. But one of the conditions of Reed's sale to Pearson-Penguin was that the name Reed could no longer be used.

"Our Pearson lawyers in the UK have spent many months trying to fight that decision but we have lost," said Pearson-Penguin managing director Margaret Thompson.

"It's a condition of the sale that the name had to change so in consultation with the management team at Reed, we have decided to change it to Raupo, the Maori name for 'reed'."

While Thompson said "nothing will change" for writers contracted to the former Reed, there will be redundancies across the board at all three companies - Pearson Education NZ, Penguin Group NZ and Reed-Raupo. Reed Publishing's Birkenhead business will be "integrated" between Penguin Group NZ-Pearson Education's premises at Rosedale in January, while Reed's warehouse in Birkenhead will continue to operate until April.

The news of the change has met adverse reaction. Former publisher and bookseller Graham Beattie, who runs a books-related blog called Bookman Beattie, told the Herald to "feel free to quote my blog", in which he wrote yesterday: "I am aghast, appalled and saddened at this development and can't believe that when the name Reed has been used in New Zealand for 100 years (long before Reed Elsevier ever existed) that the lawyers have ruled this way."

Other comments on his website said: "I guess that Penguin thought they would be getting the publishing list and the all-valuable name of Reed. Well, they missed out on the latter. Bloody ridiculous in my book. Old AH Reed will be swirling in his grave."

Gavin McLean, the historian who wrote Whare Raupo: The Reed Books Story and Whare Raupo, an anthology published this year celebrating Reed's 100-year backlist, said: "I wonder whether the people making those corporate decisions in London and in Sydney quite understood the value to the New Zealand book trade of that little name, Reed.

"I'm of a generation that grew up buying books from Whitcombe & Tombs or Reeds lists and they have both gone now, both through international takeovers."

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