Last week Broadway Books, a division of Random House -- itself now a division of the German media giant Bertelsmann A.G. -- made the startling announcement that it was dropping one of its biggest spring books, "The Keys to the Kingdom," a biography of Walt Disney chairman Michael Eisner by Time and Vanity Fair reporter Kim Masters. Random House spokesman Stuart Applebaum chalked up the controversial move to house editors' having "found the author's reporting to be sadly inadequate."
Is it only a coincidence that Disney is deep in business negotiations with Bertelsmann? Last month it was reported that Disney is spinning off its majority stake in Super RTL, a family-oriented German television channel that is expected to have $121 million in revenue this year, and Bertelsmann is a probable purchaser. Through CLT-Ufa (a joint venture with Luxembourg's CLT), Bertelsmann controls Germany's leading commercial TV network, RTL, and owns Super RTL jointly with Disney. Now Bertelsmann wants outright control of the channel, which claims a respectable 1.6 percent share of the German audience.
The New York Times reported last week that William Morrow, a division of Hearst, is interested in Masters' book. On Tuesday, Morrow executive editor Henry Ferris confirmed that the house is still considering the biography. "We're very, very interested," Ferris told Salon Books. "We think very highly of Kim Masters' reporting."