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Original owners buy Blackstone

Ashland audiobook publisher was founded by Craig and Michelle Black
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Blackstone Audio employee Lucas Pylant gathers audiobooks for shipping in the company’s warehouse. MT file photoJim Craven
 Posted: 2:00 AM October 24, 2013

Blackstone Audio was purchased back by its original owners early this month along with the U.S. assets of AudioGo, a U.K.-based company that bought out the Ashland-based audiobook publisher less than a year ago.

Blackstone's founders, Craig and Michelle Black, were given the opportunity to purchase back their locally grown business along with AudioGo's U.S. arm and did so Oct. 8, said Josh Stanton, Blackstone's president and new chief executive officer.

In the U.K., AudioGo has suspended its business operations while it seeks investors or a buyer, Stanton said. The company purchased Blackstone for an undisclosed amount on Dec. 31, 2012.

Stanton said management troubles in the U.K. were negatively impacting AudioGo's U.S.-based operations.

"There were problems with the U.K. business, the parent company, and as it became clear that they were not going to able to clear the U.K. business without some new investors coming in, they decided to split off the American side," he said.

Stanton would not disclose how much money the Blacks spent to purchase back their company and AudioGo's U.S. assets. After the initial sale to AudioGo at the end of 2012, the Blacks retained a small share of Blackstone and worked in a consulting capacity for the company under AudioGo. Craig Black also served on AudioGo's board of directors.

AudioGo was founded in July 2010, when BBC Worldwide sold 85 percent of its stake in BBC Audiobooks to the company, according to British news reports.

AudioGo's U.S. assets include the rights to more than 4,000 audio books, which it acquired upon its launch from BBC America and now-defunct U.K. company Chivers Audio Books.

With the acquisition of AudioGo's U.S. titles, Blackstone now boasts about 9,000 books in its catalog, Stanton said, adding the AudioGo name will be phased out over the next several months.

"With audiobooks, we're one of the biggest in America, we're right up there with Random House, Parker, Penguin, those are our peers. ... We have a ton of new exciting things to work on through this deal," Stanton said. "The future is pretty bright."

Blackstone employs about 150 people in Ashland and about 30 more in offices throughout the U.S., including Rhode Island, New York, Ohio and Florida, said Stanton, who expects the company to expand its Ashland operations in the near future.

"We'll probably move more to Ashland. Ashland is the headquarters of the business, we want to be here," Stanton said.

Blackstone maintains five recording studios at its 40,000-square-foot Ashland facility. Stanton said Blackstone will likely close its recording and storage facility in Rhode Island, where about 20 people work.

The Blacks launched Blackstone from their Medford living room in 1987.

Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at samuelcwheeler@gmail.com.


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