(Bloomberg) -- HarperCollins Publishers LLC Chief Executive Officer Brian Murray told a federal judge that his company wants to buy Simon & Schuster Inc. if the government succeeds in blocking Penguin Random House’s bid to take over its smaller rival on antitrust grounds.

Murray, testifying in Washington federal court Tuesday, told US District Judge Florence Pan that he didn’t see a HarperCollins tie-up with Simon & Schuster as anticompetitive, even though it would still cut the list of the five largest publishers down to four. 

Murray also told the judge he was shocked that Penguin Random House agreed to pay $2.18 billion for Simon & Schuster. He didn’t disclose what his company, which is a unit of News Corp., bid, but said it was below what the Bertelsmann SE subsidiary had offered. 

If consummated, the Penguin deal would combine the largest US book publisher with the fourth biggest. The government argues the takeover will lead to lower advances for authors and fewer choices for consumers. The US book publishing industry is expected to generate about $33.3 billion in 2022, according to industry research company IBIS world. 

The case is US v. Bertelsmann SE, 21-cv-02886, U.S. District Court for District of Columbia. 

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