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Publisher of Weekly Reader, Funk & Wagnalls For Sale

July 18, 1990

MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) _ Field Publications, the educational publishing company that puts out the Weekly Reader and the Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia, may be changing hands.

Bruce Seide, president of Field Publications, said Tuesday that the company’s parent, Field Corp. of Chicago, is searching for buyers for the Middletown-based firm.

The firm employs 300 people at its Middletown headquarters, 60 at its Funk & Wagnalls affiliate in Ramsey, N.J., and another 600 at its distribution center in Columbus, Ohio.

Seide said Field Corp. has retained the investment banking firm Morgan Stanley & Co. to negotiate with potential buyers.

″There are any number of publishing and direct marketing organizations who are looking for the possible opportunity for growth or synergy with their own companies,″ he said. ″We will evaluate all of them initially and should have the group narrowed down in a few weeks.″

The privately held company publishes and sells a variety of publications to schools, students and individuals. Its principal products are book clubs for children and adults and the Weekly Reader, a 61-year-old classroom newspaper read by more than 10 million schoolchildren.

The sale of the company would be its fourth.

Founded in Ohio in 1902, it was known as American Education Publications in 1949 when it was bought by Wesleyan University for $8.2 million.

Wesleyan brought the company’s editorial offices to Middletown in 1952, and sold the company to Xerox in 1965, reportedly for between $54 million and $56 million.

Xerox, seeking cash to expand its office systems and financial research units, sold its educational publishing unit to Field Corp. in August 1985.

In 1988, Field Corp. expanded into the encyclopedia market by purchasing New Jersey-based Funk & Wagnalls Inc., which sells reference books through supermarkets.

Seide said Field Publications’ revenues were about $300 million in 1989 and were expected to be about the same in 1990.

Field Corp., founded in 1984 by Marshall Field V, also owns Seattle-based Muzak and Manistique Papers, a newsprint manufacturer based in Manistique, Mich.

The Field family sold its interest in the Chicago-based Marshall Field’s department stores in the 1960s.

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