Deseret Book buys Covenant, Seagull

No layoffs or closures are planned; stores will operate independently

It started with a threat, and ended in a buyout.

Deseret Book officials on Thursday announced the purchase of rival Covenant Communications and its sister company Seagull Book and Tape, a retail book chain with 26 stores.

Acquisition talks began last July after Deseret Book threatened to stop selling its popular line of works, written by nearly 140 influential LDS authors, in Seagull stores because of a difference of opinion in marketing, merchandising and promotional techniques.

The stoppage by Deseret Book, wholly owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, could have crushed its smaller, privately held competitor.

“The end result went from head to head competition to more of a mutual admiration,” said Lew Kofford, founder of Covenant Communications and Seagull Books. “Deseret Book was an ideal choice to make this acquisition, and I fully expect the companies to complement each other.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed Thursday, but both companies said the Deseret Book and Seagull Book brands will continue to operate independently – without cuts to the 250 employees at Covenant and Seagull or Deseret’s 900 workers.

“We feel that Deseret Book as a full-service book retailer and Seagull as a well-established discount book retailer not only both enjoy tremendous brand loyalty, but between them service the LDS market well,” said Sheri Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book Co. “Our strategy is to continue to build both brands.”

The former rivals said it will be business as usual for all three entities. Covenant Communications, publisher of LDS products, and Deseret Book’s publishing division will continue to operate separately and all existing relationships with authors of both companies will remain intact.

Similarly, there are no plans to close any Seagull or Deseret Book stores, and the management team at Seagull and Covenant will remain in place, said both companies.

Kofford said he has recently signed a long-term lease with Deseret Book for its rival’s present headquarters he owns in American Fork, “which is a good indication they’ll do what they said they would do.”

The 66-year-old Kofford said he had been looking for “an exit strategy for the past couple of years.” He now plans to be a full-time grandfather to his 25 grandchildren.

Sidebar: The players

• Covenant Communications: One of the largest publishers of LDS-themed fiction, games, teaching aids, gift books and nonfiction.

• Seagull Book and Tape: An LDS-oriented discount book chain with 26 stores throughout Utah, Idaho, Arizona and California.

• Deseret Book: Utah’s oldest book company, owned by the LDS church and founded in 1866. The company has five divisions: retail, publishing, wholesale, events and direct-to-customer. The retail division operates 43 stores in several Western states.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Dawn House, The Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 29, 2006,

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday December 29, 2006.
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