Santa Barbara Company ABC-CLIO acquired by a British publisher

In a December deal that received little local attention, longtime Santa Barbara book and database publisher ABC-CLIO was acquired by London-based Bloomsbury Publishing. The $22.4 million sale ended the family business’s 65-year history (and 60 years in Santa Barbara) as an independent nonfiction publisher serving the library and school markets.

Eric and Ron Boehm | Credit: Courtesy

Bloomsbury — the original publisher of Harry Potter franchise — is a respected professional and scholarly publisher of books and databases. A public company with a market capitalization of around $400 million, Bloomsbury has made several acquisitions in recent years. In a press release announcing the deal, Bloomsbury CEO Nigel Newton said, “We are delighted to welcome ABC-CLIO to Bloomsbury. ABC-CLIO is a historic and respected American publisher.

In recent years, ABC-CLIO has occupied a two-story location at 147 Castilian Drive, though that office has remained largely empty for the past two years as staff work from home during the pandemic. At its peak, the company had 100-120 employees in our region and more across the country and, for a time, offices in Colorado and Oxford, England. The company employed dozens of writers, editors, marketers and support staff in its Riviera and then Goleta offices, many of whom got their first jobs as aspiring writers and editors, finding a rare career opportunity through their education in history and the humanities. The company has long identified itself as a leading history publisher and, if you’re wondering, Clio is the Greek muse of history.

Why sell now? For company president Becky Snyder, it’s a bittersweet feeling: “As an education publisher, we’ve always been on the cutting edge of technology to understand how students conduct their research and design our products around that. This sale keeps the products in the forefront. For us to continue to lead and do what we wanted to do, we needed additional resources and tools. For his part, Ron Boehm, son of the company’s founder, similarly explained the sale, as a chance to pass the publishing baton to a respected company that would “move the business forward as a business with an entity that appreciated our people and the value of the products and the ability to expand their use.


What’s next for current ABC-CLIO staff? For now, Bloomsbury is digesting the buy as ABC-CLIO pre-sales staff remain in place. A Bloomsbury spokesperson commented this week: “We want to carefully plan ABC-CLIO’s integration with Bloomsbury in the US and all of Bloomsbury’s global business, so it’s business as usual. ‘was. We do not plan to integrate ABC-CLIO until at least six months after the acquisition. Bloomsbury wants to use this time to understand the business, its strengths and all the employees involved, and we want ABC-CLIO to get to know Bloomsbury.


Eric Boehm (1918-2017) founded the company with a compelling vision: to create and publish summaries (short summaries) of historical research, just as the sciences relied on abstract publications to track research in their fields. Boehm’s other vision was that a war-torn world could be bettered and brought together by a global community of like-minded scholars, all collaborating on the same project of tracking global historical research. Himself a refugee from Nazi Germany, Boehm knew the stakes of the post-war period. His vision blossomed, and contributions from scholars and researchers from around the world poured into the ABC-CLIO office to be processed by a team of multilingual editors.

Later, the company added a line of reference books (mainly scholarly encyclopedias) for the US library market, and then a line of subscription databases for the school market. The focus remained the story; database titles like American History, World History, and the African-American Experience are used in many American schools today.

Over the years, the company’s line of books and subscription databases have won prestigious awards in the publishing niche focused on reference materials for library users. In 2008, ABC-CLIO itself purchased benchmark and general-interest publishers Greenwood Press and Praeger, a move that added tens of thousands of titles to its book list and multiple databases overnight. of subscription. Now the company itself has been acquired, ending its long career as a local independent publisher.

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