Major Reorgnization from Random House; Applebaum and Rubin Out

In an email circulated to Random House colleagues, Random House announced a massive reorganization and the loss of veteran staffers, Irwyn Applebaum and Steve Rubin. Here is the email that came from CEO Markus Dohle:

Dear colleagues and agents,

I would like to share with you the attached announcements I made today regarding a reorganization within Random House and the departure of two colleagues, Irwyn Applebaum and Steve Rubin, with whom you’ve worked over the years.

I want to emphasize that within this new structure our publishing groups retain their autonomy and our publishing programs and efforts will continue unabated. We are committed to the values of a vibrant marketplace and to supporting the passions of our individual editors and publishers to pursue the projects they desire. For that reason we will continue the Random House policy of permitting imprints to bid against each other in auctions up to the moment that there are no out-of-house participants.

My intention is that Random House should always lead the market, even in difficult times, and we can do that only by forging stronger relationships with our authors, you, their agents, our retail customers and readers everywhere. These changes will make each individual imprint stronger and make us better able to accomplish that goal collectively.

Please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts.



As part of the reorganization, Knopf will be absorbing both Doubleday and Nan A. Atlese, with this new amalgam headed by Knopf’s Sonny Mehta, while Crown, under the supervision of President and Publisher Jenny Frost, is taking Broadway, Doubleday Business, Doubleday Religion and Waterbrook Mountain. These details were announced in the attached PDFs.

Dohle insists in the PDF, “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.” But with the distinct identities of Applebaum and Rubin now out of the picture, it remains to be seen whether or not these new clusters will remain as distinct as their previous incarnations.

The Observer‘s Leon Nefakh also reports, “The time bomb that was Random House for the past five months has finally exploded.”

The New Guy at Random House

Peter Olson’s surprise resignation as CEO has caused several to wonder what effect this will have on Random House. Publishing News reports that Markus Dohle (hereinafter referred to as “The New Guy”) won’t be hindering the present autonomy and independence of the imprint. The Observer‘s Leon Neyfakh pointed out a few days ago that the key modifier used in relation to The New Guy is “entrepreneurial.” Also interesting is The New Guy’s determination to strengthen the publisher’s defenses against the “might of the retail chains.”

One detects more than the faint whiff of Sturm und Drang. But while there may be a sense of panic in the air over whether this sudden decision may involve layoffs, nobody appears to be particularly clear on what “entrepreneurial” really means. Does it mean giving the Random House imprints full autonomy provided that there are more profitable blockbusters? Does it mean shifting the emphasis away from distinguished midlist titles to a company that prizes more profitable titles?

In a New York Times article, Bertelsmann chief executive Harmut Otrowski (hereinafter referred to as “The Big Cheese”) said that The New Guy was chosen over a more traditional candidate because The Big Cheese wanted a fresh perspective. The New Guy, said The Big Cheese, “has shown he has been able to turn a mature business into a growing business.”

Did longtime editor Marty Asher, who mysteriously stepped down only days before The New Guy was given the throne, know something we don’t? Again, we have only modifiers to go by. By “growing,” does The Big Cheese mean a more unpredictable business model that will yield greater profits in uncertain economic times? In drifting away from “mature” waters, does The Big Cheese have a frenetic Neutron Jack-style backup plan in mind?