On April 22, 2024

Chelsea Green to be sold for $5m to international publishing behemoth

Chelsea Green

Chelsea Green

Photo by Andrew Nemethy

Chelsea Green

 

 

Independent Vermont publisher will be assumed by Rizzoli International, a subsidiary of Italian publishing giant Mondadori Group

By Juan Vega de Soto/VTDigger

 

One of Vermont’s best-known independent publishers is expected to be sold to an international publishing consortium. 

Rizzoli International, a New York City subsidiary of the Italian publishing giant Mondadori Group, announced Monday that it had agreed on a deal worth $5 million for Chelsea Green Publishing. 

Chelsea Green, based in White River Junction, has carved out a reputation for publishing titles on progressive politics, sustainability and more controversial topics. It employs 17 people in the state of Vermont, according to the announcement, and has been employee-owned since 2019. 

President and CEO Margo Baldwin said that the deal had been in the works since last fall. 

“The board decided it was in the best interests of the company and the (employee-owners),” she wrote in an email to VTDigger.

Net proceeds from the sale will go to participants in the employee-ownership plan, according to Baldwin. There are no immediate plans for layoffs or relocating the company.

“It will stay in Vermont, at least for the time being,” Baldwin said.

Founded in 1984 by Baldwin and her husband, Ian, Chelsea Green built a name for itself publishing books on organic farming, homesteading and climate-conscious economics. Its success grew, and by 2022 the company had a catalog of over 400 books, annual sales of $8.1 million and an operating income of $1.1 million, according to the announcement. 

In recent years, however, the publisher has come under fire for its publication of controversial titles promoting vaccine skepticism. In 2021, Chelsea Green published “The Truth About Covid-19,” authored by Joseph Mercola, who the New York Times dubbed “The Most Influential Spreader of Coronavirus Misinformation Online.”

Mercola’s book became a bestseller. It was also the target of a complaint from U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who publicly condemned Amazon for selling it. Chelsea Green later sued Warren, but a judge threw out the request to have the senator retract her letter. 

When asked if she expected Rizzoli to continue to publish titles like Mercola’s, Baldwin said she assumed so.

“They have not indicated otherwise,” she wrote. “Like many of our health and wellness titles these books have robust sales and have contributed to the financial health of the company over time.”

In the announcement, Rizzoli said that Baldwin would assume the role of “publisher emeritus” at the company. According to Baldwin, this means she will keep Chelsea Green running smoothly and help integrate the publisher into the larger company. 

 

When asked if she would retain editorial control, Baldwin limited herself to stating that she “will be part of the editorial team.”

The deal is expected to close in the first half of 2024 and includes Chelsea Green’s subsidiary, Chelsea Green Publishing UK Ltd, which employs four people in London. 

The purchase will bring the independent Vermont publisher into the fold of a sprawling transatlantic media empire. The Mondadori Group is the biggest publishing company in Italy and is itself majority-owned by Fininvest, a holding company with communications assets in Europe worth billions of dollars. 

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