Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Merger of Ballantine and Bantam Dell

Things are happening again over at Random House (RH).

Before I describe the new shake-up, let me quickly review the changes over the past two years.

On May 21, 2008, Bertelsmann [parent company of Random House] named Markus Dohle to be the new RH chief executive, replacing Peter W. Olson who had been CEO since 1998. The hope was that Dohle, who had no publishing experience, would open up new lines of business to revitalize Random House.

Within eight weeks of Dohle's taking the reins, Random House decided to sell off its book club business in China.

But that was just the start. RH began selling off other global book and music clubs in several countries in Europe, in Australia and in the U.S., including the Direct Group North America. That direct-to-consumer group included such business lines as Doubleday Book Club, Book-of-the-Month Club, Mystery Guild and Columbia House.

On December 3, 2008, less than seven months after Dohle assumed control of RH, the New York Observer reported here:
The time bomb that was Random House for the past five months has finally exploded, as new C.E.O. Markus Dohle deployed a jaw-dropping memo this morning detailing a reorganization of the adult trade program that will see Bantam publisher Irwyn Applebaum and Doubleday publisher Steve Rubin step down and their imprints spread around to the company's other divisions.
Markus Dohle's memo to staff said:
Within the new Random House Publishing Group, Ballantine, Bantam Dell and Random House will continue to have separate editorial departments ... Side by side, Ballantine and Bantam Dell will be a commercial powerhouse with their stellar lists of bestselling and critically acclaimed authors ... I want to stress the fact that all the imprints of Random House will retain their distinct editorial identities. These imprints and all of you who support them are the creative core of our business and essential to our success. The newly formed publishing groups will continue to bid independently in auctions.
Six weeks later, on January 15, 2009, the New York Observer was back, reporting here on a memo from Gina Centrello, "the publisher of the company's biggest division—the flagship Random House Publishing Group ... announcing a new executive structure."

Centrello's memo said:
NITA TAUBLIB is appointed Executive Vice President, Publisher, and Editor in Chief, Bantam Dell ... In her new role she will direct the hardcover and mass-market publishing programs of the Bantam Dell imprints—Bantam, Dell, Delacorte, Delta ...

LIBBY McGUIRE, Senior Vice President, Publisher, Ballantine Books, will continue to oversee Ballantine hardcover and mass-market imprints—Ballantine, Villard, Del Rey, One World, ESPN Books, and Presidio ...
Now it's fifteen months later, and the New York Times reported here yesterday:
In a move to streamline its family of imprints, Random House ... consolidated two of those imprints within its Random House Publishing Group, merging Bantam Dell with Ballantine Books.

Libby McGuire ... was promoted to publisher of the newly formed Ballantine Bantam Dell. Ms. McGuire will also oversee imprints including Del Rey/Spectra, ESPN Books and Villard ... Nita Taublib, publisher and editor-in-chief of Bantam Dell, would leave the company as a result of the reorganization.
Gina Centrello wrote another memo to staff, outlining other changes in responsibilities. Publishers Lunch reported:
Since the earlier absorption of Bantam Dell, certain departments already had consolidated leadership, including publicity and rights, but Ballantine and Bantam Dell had retained separate editorial departments up until now ... spokesperson Carol Schneider calls it "a sleeker organization" combining Ballantine and Bantam Dell.
Publishers Weekly said:
At one time Bantam, Dell, and Ballantine were the major players in mass market paperback, and now those imprints are being united into one division under the Random House Publishing Group ... A company spokesperson said no other positions [besides that of Nita Taublib] are being eliminated.
I'm betting, as Maguire merges Bantam Dell into Ballantine, there will be a lot more personnel cuts announced--most likely between now and the beginning of August.

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