Bleeding Cool has heard from multiple senior comic book industry sources that long before the current impact on the comic book industry from the coronavirus pandemic, book publisher/distributor Penguin Random House was looking into buying Diamond Comic Distributors. Given recent events and their impact on businesses around the globe, Bleeding Cool has subsequently heard that this is now likely to happen. Rumors that Penguin Random House will be working with Diamond and DC Comics to distribute print comic books to open bookstores and direct market shops while Diamond has been shut down, also seems to serve as some corroboration. But Diamond is owned by one man, Steve Geppi, so we put the question to him. While he was watching Governor Hogan of Maryland announcing that those who violate staying at home orders you will be charged with a misdemeanor, he took time to comment, telling me of Penguin Random House buying Diamond, "This is news to me. While Diamond is not for sale, I can understand why Random House would find us an attractive acquisition for their portfolio. To tell you the truth, the feeling is mutual. I think Random House would be a great acquisition for us."
But this also gave me reason to look back. Diamond Comic Distributors, Inc is part of Geppi Family Enterprises that includes Alliance Game Distributors, Diamond Book Distributors, Diamond UK, Diamond Select Toys, Gemstone Publishing, E. Gerber Products, Diamond International Galleries, Hake's Americana & Collectibles, Morphy's Auctions, the Geppi's Entertainment Museum, and Baltimore magazine. It was founded in 1982 by Baltimore-based comics retailer Steve Geppi and expanded through acquisition, including New Media/Irjax's warehouses in 1982, Bud Plant Inc. in 1988, Second Genesis Distribution in 1990, Titan Distribution in 1992, Capital City in 1996 and Alliance Game Distributors in 2000.
After signing exclusive direct market distribution deals with Marvel, DC Comics, Image, Dark Horse, IDW, Boom, Dynamite and many more, to all intents and purposes, it had a monopoly on new single comic books to the direct market of two thousand comic book stores across North America. Diamond became the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Justice department for possible antitrust violations in 2000 as, although Diamond had a monopoly in the North American comic book direct market distribution, they did not enjoy a monopoly on book distribution.
Last year, owner and CEO Steve Geppi rearranged his companies to operate under the umbrella of Geppi Family Enterprises. At the time, it was suggested that this may make it easier to sell Diamond Comic Distributors without affecting Geppi's other business and letting him retain key employees. But until now there hasn't been a whiff of that, and Geppi denies what is currently being gossipped about.
The last month saw Diamond close its doors to new product to protect employees, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. DC Comics has suggested using multiple distributors to keep print comic books circulating in stores that are still open, and representatives suggested to Bleeding Cool that Penguin Random House would be a key partner in that endeavour. Might this be where the rumor came from?
Penguin Random House is a multinational conglomerate publishing company formed in 2013 from the merger of German publisher Random House and British publisher Penguin Group. Penguin Random House comprises Penguin and Random House in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, and India; Penguin in Brazil, Asia and South Africa, Dorling Kindersley worldwide; and Random House's companies in Spain, Hispanic America, and Germany. But for now that's all.