Thursday, April 28, 2016

US Book News with Publishers Lunch

Barnes & Noble, Inc. founder Leonard Riggio, 75, announced he will retire in September from his position as executive chairman -- after the annual shareholder meeting -- though he intends to remain on the company's board of directors. Riggio still controls 17.5 percent of Barnes & Noble's shares (with Abrams Capital Management as the company's second-largest holder, now with almost 14 percent of the stock). Paul Guenther, a board member since 2015 and former president of Paine Webber, will serve as BN's nonexecutive chairman after Riggio's retirement.

"I'm no longer going to be in charge. I'm done with that. I'm done with being top banana," Riggio told the WSJ, adding that he began pulling back in January. (Riggio actually left the position of ceo -- the top banana at most companies -- in 2002.) "I found peace with my decision...The whole identity crisis comes in. 'Who am I? How do I leave here?' All that stuff comes into your head after you spend so many years in one place."

Separately, Riggio says to the NYT about the company's failure to prevail in ebooks: "We're great booksellers; we know how to do that. We weren't constituted to be a technology company." Riggio adds, "The company's in a very good position. We'll continue to be the best bookseller we can be."

In a formal statement, Riggio comments: "I intend to remain a shareholder of Barnes & Noble for years to come. I have complete confidence in the management team and their ability to take this Company to the next level of bookselling and I have every intention of offering my help and support. I've thoroughly enjoyed working with our board of directors and I couldn't be more pleased that Paul has stepped up to take on this new leadership role."

Harper publisher Jonathan Burnham wrote to staff that executive editor David Hirshey "has decided to relocate to Los Angeles where his daughter is pursuing a career as a TV writer and is soon to be married." He will leave the publisher on June 17 after nearly 18 years with the company. Burnham notes, "We wish David the very best for his new life in California. We also thank him for all his many contributions to Harper."

In other personnel news, Amazon's country manager for China Doug Gurr will return to the UK to take over as head of the company's business there in late May, when Christopher North departs to become ceo of Shutterfly. Gurr join Amazon in the UK in 2011 as vp of their hardlines division, after serving as an executive at supermarket chain Asda.

At Abrams, Paul Colarusso has been promoted to associate director of marketing, adult books, while Kate Lesko moves up to associate marketing manager. In addition, Meredith Clark recently joined Abrams as managing editor for Noterie, & calendars. Clark was most recently a project manager at Johnson & Johnson. Finally, Garrett McGrath recently joined as associate editor, adult books. Previously he was an editorial assistant at Little, Brown.

The James Beard Foundation presented their annual book, broadcast and journalism awards, including prizes in over a dozen cookbook categories. Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook's Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking won "book of the year" and J. Kenji López-Alt's The Food Lab received the award for general cooking.

Cathleen Richardson Bailey has been named the first recipient of the Charlotte Sheedy Fellowship at The MacDowell Colony -- created to support one writer each year "whose work represents populations across racial and cultural boundaries."

Kobo is expanding into Turkey, partnering with the country's largest book and media retailer D&R. Their localized ebookstore offers 15,000 Turkish-language ebooks, as part of Kobo's global catalog of 4.7 million titles.

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