Update: shortly after the news hit that various publishing houses are caught in a bidding war over the Obamas' upcoming memoirs, Penguin Random House issued a press release that it was the winner and will publish forthcoming books by former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers.
The terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The Obamas were represented by Robert Barnett and Deneen Howell of Williams & Connolly.
“We are absolutely thrilled to continue our publishing partnership with President and Mrs. Obama. With their words and their leadership, they changed the world, and every day, with the books we publish at Penguin Random House, we strive to do the same,” the chief executive of Penguin Random House, Markus Dohle, said in a statement. “Now, we are very much looking forward to working together with President and Mrs. Obama to make each of their books global publishing events of unprecedented scope and significance.”
What took the Clintons years of confidential speeches before major investment banks and middle eastern clients of the Treasury Department, the Obama's plan to achieve with just two books. According to the FT, several publishers are participating in a blockbuster auction for the global rights to two books by Barack and Michelle Obama where the bid has reached more than $60 million. The Obamas, who are writing separate books but selling the rights jointly, stand to make a record amount for their presidential memoirs.
The publishers involved in the auction for "the most hotly anticipated publishing deal of the year" include Penguin Random House, which published Obama’s previous three books, and HarperCollins, which ironically is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News. Simon & Schuster, which is owned by CBS, and Macmillan, are also in the mix. As the FT points out, a win by HarperCollins would bring the Obamas into the same publishing house as Bill O’Reilly, the author and Fox News Channel presenter who has been one of the former president’s fiercest critics.
For now, Penguin Random House is reportedly leading the pack for the publishing deal with a decision on the winning bid expected imminently.
With the price set to surpass $60 million, rhe sum offered would eclipse other book deals secured by departing presidents, and would be four times greater than the $15 million Bill Clinton received from Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House, for his 2004 memoirs My Life when he left the White House. George W Bush made an estimated $10 million from his book Decision Points.
The FT also notes that Robert Barnett, Obama’s literary agent who is fielding offers on behalf of the former president, has become a power player for politicians seeking big book deals. He brokered Tony Blair’s £4.5 million contract with Penguin Random House, which is jointly owned by UK education group Pearson and Bertelsmann, the German media company.
Obama has extensive prior book authoring experience, having gained a reputation as a writer before entering the White House with his bestselling books Dreams From My Father and The Audacity of Hope. Obama previously disclosed that he earned $8.8 million from The Audacity of Hope, and the children’s book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, according to a report by Forbes. Sales of his first memoir, Dreams from My Father, published in paperback in 2004, brought in a further $6.8m in royalties.
However, it is the prospect of a joint book deal with his wife Michelle that has propelled the auction to record-breaking levels and has set the publishing industry alight.