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Leading Software Publishers Announce Merger

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A Massachusetts-based software company announced last week that it would buy one leading educational-software company and try to take over another.

SoftKey International Inc. said it had reached an agreement to purchase MECC, one of the best-known names in the educational-software industry.

SoftKey, based in Cambridge, Mass., also announced an unsolicited bid for The Learning Company, and asked a Delaware court to prohibit that company from taking measures to prevent the acquisition.

Officials of the Fremont, Calif.-based Learning Company declined last week to comment on the move.

SoftKey said the acquisition of MECC in a $370-million stock swap amenable to both parties would give MECC's products wider exposure in the lucrative home-software market. MECC produces such popular titles as Oregon Trail, Amazon Trail, and Yukon Trail, adventure simulations that are used widely in both homes and schools.

"SoftKey's extensive distribution in the retail, direct-mail, international, and other markets will allow us to increase significantly MECC's share in the home education market," said Michael Perik, SoftKey's chief executive officer.

SoftKey's titles usually sell for much less than comparable MECC titles, analysts noted.

Industry Consolidation

If consummated, the mergers would bring together several powerful players in the education-software market.

With more than 190 titles, MECC has been a well-known name in homes and schools for more than 20 years.

The Learning Company produces the popular Reader Rabbit early-learning series, which has sold 2 million copies to educators and parents since its introduction in 1984. The Learning Company recently announced plans to merge with Broderbund Software, another premier educational publisher based in Novato, Calif. (See Education Week, Sept. 6, 1995.)

SoftKey, one of the world's largest consumer-software publishers, develops, publishes, and markets more than 300 titles aimed at home users in North America, and distributes other products internationally. SoftKey's products are sold in more than 19,000 stores in more than 40 countries.

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