The Reader's Digest Association (RDA) publishes the undersized general-interest magazine Reader's Digest, which boasts 50 editions and is translated into some 20 languages. In addition to publishing its flagship title, RDA operates about 80 branded websites. It leverages its extensive consumer database of more than 140 million names to market books (such as Reader's Digest Select Editions, how-to guides, and cookbooks), special-interest magazines, music, videos, and financial and health products in nearly 80 countries. Suffering from a heavy debt-load amid a down economy, RDA filed Chapter 11 for its US businesses, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2010. It is owned by RDA Holding Co.
The company operates its business through a pair of divisions: North America and International. Globally, it boasts a circulation of 23 million across all its titles.
RCA in 2011 sold nearly 9 million books across its customer base of 46 countries and in 35 languages.
The company began purging several assets in 2011 as part of plans to focus on its central brands (Reader's Digest, Taste of Home, and Family Handyman) in order to enhance shareholder value. RDA first sold Every Day with Rachel Ray to Meredith. In 2012 the company sold its Weekly Reader subsidiary, which publishes a dozen educational magazines for teachers and students, as well as its food and cooking site Allrecipes.com to Meredith in a deal worth $175 million.
Reports surfaced in 2011 that the company had put itself up for sale -- with an asking price of about $1 billion -- as it struggled to meet the challenges of a slowdown in ad and consumer spending and update the stodgy image of its core publication that is not attracting young people. A signal of such difficulties, RDA made the decision to publish its US magazine a mere 10 times a year in 2010 and lower its guaranteed circulation from 8 million to 5.5 million. It also folded operations at its Reader's Digest Association UK subsidiary following the unit's filing for administration.
After adopting a global "Recession Plan" to respond to the economic slowdown, including cutting about 280 jobs, mandating unpaid time off, and suspending company-matching contributions to its 401(k) plans, it filed for voluntary pre-arranged Chapter 11 in 2009. (The bankruptcy filing applied to the company's US businesses; operations in Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia-New Zealand were not affected.) The reorganization reduced its massive debt from $2.3 billion to $525 million.
In 2007 an investor group led by Ripplewood Holdings spent $1.6 billion to take the company private. Ripplewood's $275 million investment in the company was wiped out after most of RDA filed for bankruptcy in 2009. Ripplewood relinquished its ownership of Reader's Digest to a group of lenders led by JPMorgan Chase called RDA Holdings, and its executives left the board. – less