From The London Evening Standard:
Not a good week for women is how one leading literary agent described it. This week two of the most powerful women in the London books trade, Dame Gail Rebuck and Victoria Barnsley, stepped down from their posts within 24 hours of each other. On Tuesday night, Barnsley abruptly departed as UK and international chief executive of HarperCollins after a brutal management shake-up by proprietor Rupert Murdoch. A day earlier, Dame Gail Rebuck stepped back from day-to-day control of Random House after the merger with Penguin was completed.
Rebuck, 61, will remain with the publisher as UK chairman but it is understood to be a part-time role. Some are tipping her for a peerage. Barnsley’s plans are unknown, though she will not stay on as an adviser.
Barnsley was tearful when she told her staff she was leaving and last night’s annual HarperCollins summer party at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens was an emotional farewell after 13 years at the helm and more than 200 literary prizes on her watch, including double Booker winner Hilary Mantel.
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British publishing has now reverted to being a largely public school, male-dominated business (at least among the upper echelons). Barnsley is being replaced by Charlie Redmayne, Eton (and half-brother of actor Eddie), while Random Penguin UK is being ruled over by new CEO Tom Weldon (Westminster and Oxford). “Four years ago there were four women heading up British publishers,” says Liz Thomson of BrookBrunch. ”On Sunday we had three, and today we have one.” Ursula Mackenzie remains the only female CEO of a major UK imprint (Little Brown).
More significantly, power and influence has shifted overnight to America. Barnsley’s international responsibilities have been moved to the head office in New York, where Brian Murray has been appointed as president and CEO of HarperCollins Worldwide. Until recently, book deals were agreed on a country-by-country basis and England’s historic link to “the Colonies” like India and Commonwealth territories like Australia and New Zealand mattered. Not any more. Likewise Penguin, with its history dating back to 1935, when Allen Lane founded the paperback imprint in Marylebone, will no longer be headquartered in The Strand.
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The other major development is that the man at the top of HarperCollins UK does not come from a publishing background.
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Print publishing is under pressure and books companies — which could be more accurately described as content owners in the new digital age — need better negotiating muscle against Amazon, with its 90 per cent market share in e-books.
Link to the rest at Evening Standard and thanks to Jules for the tip.