Macmillan: Don Weisberg To Succeed John Sargent as CEO

From Publishing Perspectives:

Many in world publishing are surprised this morning (September 17) as a series of top roles at Big Five publisher Macmillan undergo fast change.

Holtzbrinck in Stuttgart has announced “with great regret” that John Sargent will depart both Macmillan and the Holtzbrinck Publishing Group as of January 1.

The reason for Sargent’s departure is described by the German corporation’s statement as “disagreements regarding the direction of Macmillan.”

Don Weisberg, who currently is president of Macmillan US trade, has been named to succeed Sargent. And Susan Winslow, until now the company’s general manager, becomes president of Macmillan Learning, effective immediately.

In a prepared statement, Holtzbrinck Publishing Group CEO Stefan von Holtzbrinck says, “The family shareholders, the supervisory board, my colleagues and I thank John Sargent deeply for making Macmillan a strong and highly successful publishing house and for his most helpful advice.

“John’s principles and exemplary leadership have always been grounded in worthy, essential causes, be it freedom of  speech, the environment, or support for the most vulnerable. Since Holtzbrinck shares these ideals, they will live on.”

. . . .

To many following issues of diversity and equity in publishing, Susan Winslow’s promotion to president of Macmillan Learning is of special interest. The new role makes her one of only a small number of women who lead educational publishing and ed-tech companies.

She has been general manager of the division for three years and has more than three decades of experience in educational publishing across the business.

. . . .

It’s impossible to know from the Holtzbrinck announcement today what “disagreements regarding the direction of Macmillan” means. It’s not clear that that line or Sargent’s impending departure can be seen as related to that quite radical management-model adjustment of the summer.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG does not (of course) have any insights into the inner workings of Macmillan or any other large US traditional publisher. To be fair, PG has not attempted to penetrate the cone of silence that surrounds most of what happens in large publishers, but expects he would be firmly rebuffed should he ever attempt to do so.

However, it is not unusual for respected and competent leaders of organizations owned by large international media conglomerates like Holtzbrinck to be terminated for not making their numbers (that is, the revenue and profit numbers demanded by the real bosses). With these folks, it’s all about the Benjamins (einhundert Euro or eine Million Euro). Achieve your targets and, absent criminal charges, you’re gold. Miss and you’re geschichte.

Nur die Harten kommen in den Garten.

6 thoughts on “Macmillan: Don Weisberg To Succeed John Sargent as CEO”

  1. Considering all the water he carried for Holtzbrink and the laws he broke for them his treatment is no surprise. That kind of operation has…limited capacity…for loyalty.
    It was obviously too much to expect they’d offer him a fig leaf in parting ways.

  2. Translation from closely held German family enterprises:

    We fired a senior manager because he wasn’t making us predictably enough richer fast enough while avoiding obvious embarassment. But we’re too couth to say “fired” because we have no proof of criminal activity or, well, actual embarassment to us, despite any comments made by the Hon. Denise L. Cote (those are years ago and well-deflected by the focus on those persons from Cupertino, and we’ve ensured that there’s no way to trace anything to the Family anyway).

    Like I’ve never seen a German family-owned conglomerate do this before. Well, not very often. This year.

  3. Companies produce books and sell them to make money. Just like widgets. Don’t make enough money, and you’re gone. Just like widgets.

      • Felix – You missed the point – bosses of giant privately-owned European holding companies don’t make mistakes. It’s the underlings that aren’t part of the royal-golden line that fail. The little people, for all their undeniable virtues and hard work, just don’t have that something that makes them infallible. Over and over, they fail to carry out the visions of the gods.

        It’s such a hard life when you are constantly being disappointed by lesser beings. And such disappointments are invariably accompanied by lost Euros, Marks, Rubles, etc. Nobody likes to sell gold to support a business.

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