Penguin Random House Wins Bidding War for Obamas’ Memoir Rights

  • Publisher to pay reported record $65 million for two books
  • Extends relationship going back to Obama’s time as senator

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama pose for photographs prior to greeting China's president at the White House in Washington on Sept. 25, 2015.

Penguin Random House will publish separate books from Barack and Michelle Obama, agreeing to pay a reported $65 million in what would be a record for U.S. presidential memoirs.

“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs. Obama,” Penguin Random House Chief Executive Officer Markus Dohle said in a statement. He vowed “to make each of their books global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance."

The deal extends a relationship with Random House that stretches back to when the two-term president was still an Illinois senator. The best-selling campaign manifesto “The Audacity of Hope” helped propel the Hawaiian-born Obama to the White House. The former president remains popular, having left office in January with a 59 percent approval rating, according to Gallup.

The publication of “Of Thee I Sing” completed a three-book, $1.9 million deal that also included the 55-year-old ex-president’s best-seller “Dreams from My Father.” Michelle Obama, 53, has written “Michelle Obama in Her Own Words,” and a book about her White House garden, “American Grown.”

Penguin Random House declined to say how much it paid for the rights. The publisher paid $65 million to beat out CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster and Harper Collins, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., in a bidding war for the Obama books, the Financial Times reported earlier. That surpassed the record $15 million paid to former President Bill Clinton for “My Life,” the newspaper said.

Penguin Random House is co-owned by German media giant Bertelsmann SE and Pearson Plc, which said in January that it plans to sell its 47 percent stake.

— With assistance by Paul Barbagallo

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