NEWTON - Harcourt General, Inc., a publishing house that at one time controlled Nieman Marcus Group and General Cinema, announced that it has agreed to be acquired by Reed Elsevier PLC, an Anglo-Dutch company for $4.45 billion. Reed Elsevier will also assume about $1.3 billion in debt for a variety of businesses owned by the publisher, the Boston Globe reported. The Globe reported that Reed Elsevier planned to sell off Harcourt's higher education publishing unit and several professional service businesses to the Thompson Corp, of Toronto, Ontario, for $2.1 billion. Since 1989 Harcourt has shed several of its high profile businesses, like Nieman Marcus and General Cinema. The deal, which is subject to approval by federal regulators, is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2001, the Globe reported.