Thursday, February 16, 2017

Publishers Lunch

Today's Meal

Five months after firing Linda Zecher following a series of unexpected performance problems, the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt board has hired John (Jack) J. Lynch, Jr., 58, as president and chief executive officer. L. Gordon Crovitz will continue to serve as interim CEO until Lynch joins the company. Lynch will take over "as soon as possible, as he finishes up at Renaissance Learning and relocates to Boston in the weeks ahead."

Most recently Lynch was ceo of Renaissance Learning, a K-12 learning analytics company. He was a member of the executive board of Wolters Kluwer for 6 years, prior to which he was ceo of Pearson School Technology and founding ceo of HMH board chair Lawrence K. Fish says in the announcement, "He brings an uncommon set of K-12 education and technology experience along with an outstanding track record generating exceptional returns for investors. He is the right leader at the right time as HMH and the education industry continue to transform and evolve."

Lynch adds in the release: "A leader in its space with critical scale and an extraordinary legacy, HMH is exceptionally well positioned to lead the education industry in the rapid transition to digital and highly personalized learning experiences. Educators today are seeking solutions from companies they can trust to improve student outcomes, and HMH is well positioned to meet that need." The stock hit an all-time low of $9.35 in early November on the bad news, and was lifted modestly on the post-election market movement, now at $10.35 a share. HMH will report fourth quarter results on February 23 before the market opens.

Lynch will
receive a base salary of $900,000 plus a cash bonus targeted at 125 percent of that base, along with one-time equity and option awards of $2.5 million, and eligibility for another $2.2 million in long-term incentive awards.

In other People news, at the Emma Sweeney Agency, Kira Watson has been promoted to agent and rights manager. Watson will focus on building her young adult, middle grade, and picture book list.

Catriona Ferguson will take over as association director of the Council of the Publishers Association of New Zealand at the end of March. She succeeds Anne de Lautour, who is stepping down in early April after almost 10 years in the position. Ferguson is currently chief executive of the New Zealand Book Council.

In announcing the naming of Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau executive director Tiffany Tomlin as a vice president, supervising executive vice president Nina von Moltke reports that over almost 3 years of the consolidated companywide speakers bureau, the unit has "doubled its annual gross fee income." In 2017, they scheduled 770 events, where they sold over 190,000 copies of the speakers’ books, "most of them in partnership with local independent book stores."

Former Ingram senior vice president Jim Parker, 76,
died February 12 in Columbia, TN from cancer. Parker joined Ingram in 1974 and in over 27 years with the company, became a book buyer and rose to direct their overall purchasing staff, also developing their pioneering audiobook program.

Publicist Michael Taeckens
interviews Slate books and culture columnist Laura Miller for Poets & Writers: "When I meet a big reader who professes no desire to write, I think of them as a beautiful, almost mythical creature, like a unicorn, to be celebrated," Miller says. She adds: "I also believe that reading is a profoundly creative act, that every act of reading is a collaboration between author and reader. I don’t understand why more people aren’t interested in this alchemy. It’s such an act of grace to give someone else ten or fifteen hours out of your own irreplaceable life, and allow their voice, thoughts, and imaginings into your head. I can’t respect any writer who isn’t abjectly grateful for the faith, generosity, and trust in that."

Miller notes: "No respectable literary journalist considers helping out authors or publishers to be a central purpose. That would be a big mistake. A publication commands a significant audience because it prioritizes running pieces that are interesting and meaningful to that audience." Plus, "My advice to people who want to be professional critics is not to. It wouldn’t be responsible to encourage young people to pursue a career path that is so economically unfeasible. It’s a nice sideline, but the only deliberate path I can think of to recommend is journalism school."

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