Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Major restructuring at Random House, Inc.

And one week after Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's publishing identity crisis, in what will surely come to be known as The Year that Publishing Pooped Messily All Over Itself, news comes down from Random House, Inc. about a major (MAJOR!) restructuring. From Marcus Dohle's memo (which is published in full at The Observer):
The Random House Publishing Group, under the leadership of President and Publisher Gina Centrello, will expand to include the imprints of the Bantam Dell Publishing Group, including The Dial Press, along with Doubleday’s Spiegel & Grau.

The Knopf Publishing Group, led by Chairman Sonny Mehta, will expand to include the Doubleday and Nan A. Talese imprints from the Doubleday Publishing Group.

The Crown Publishing Group, under the direction of President and Publisher Jenny Frost, will expand to include the other imprints from the Doubleday Publishing Group—Broadway, Doubleday Business, Doubleday Religion and WaterBrook Multnomah.
Bantam Dell head Irwyn Applebaum has resigned, and Doubleday Broadway head Steve Rubin will step down, although he'll eventually find a new place within the Random House corporate structure.

Okay, I'm going to channel my inner Douglas Adams and say this loud and clear for all of you, one more time:


Random House went through this once before, nearly ten years ago, when they were purchased by Bertelsmann and merged with Bantam Doubleday Dell. They went through it again six years ago when Little Random merged with Ballantine. Miraculously, everyone lived. (Although some lived without their jobs, unfortunately.)

Things will be confusing for a while, yes, but publishing will not implode, explode or fall apart utterly. It's merely evolving, as all businesses do.

And, more importanty, the sky continues not to fall.


Kerry Allen said...

Hysterical Writer: "The sky is falling!"

Wise Agent: *slap* "No, it is not."

Hysterical Writer: "But this piece of the sky hit me on the head!"

Wise Agent: *slap* "That is pigeon poop."

Hysterical Writer: "Oh. Thank you very much for your educated input and calming influence."

Wise Agent: *slap* "You're very welcome."

Hysterical Writer: "Why do you keep hitting me?"

Wise Agent: *slap* "Because it's fun."

Puppetmaker said...

I was one of those who was Restructured out the door 6 years ago when Little Randomhouse was merged into Ballantine and I am still looking for a job back in publishing.

My best wishes for the next set of people who are shown the door.

Jeff said...

I've got my towel.

Julie Butcher-Fedynich said...

Awww,geez. Its not?
I was so looking forward to poor-mouthing at the big pity party.

clindsay said...

Kerry -

That made me snarf coffee on my laptop screen! Thanks! You're getting the bill.

* reaches out and slaps writer again, just because *

Puppetmaker -

Yes, I also lost my job at Ballantine due to the merger. I feel your pain. If I had a dollar for every time I was told that I was over-qualified for a publishing job in the last three years, I would be a very rich woman.

Instead, I became an agent, and learned to once again love street hot dogs, peanut butter sandwiches and Top Ramen.

I work with books and writers because I love working with books and writers. Indeed, I cannot imagine a job where I did not work with books and writers.

But I would never trade the experiences I had at Random House (in all three of my different jobs there; yes, I was laid of from Random House three times between 1992 and 2007. I win!). I made friends that survive to this day, I met and learned from some of the best and brightest people in publishing (Irwyn Applebaum and Steve Rubin among them; they are both good men who - like many good people who end up running companies during bad times - found themselves in impossible situations), and gained extraordinary experience doing a job that I loved 90% of the time.

Jeff -

You've got bird poop on your shoulder. :-)


Jeff said...

Colleen, it's a good thing I have my towel, isn't it?

David Anthony Durham said...

The wisdom (and humor) is much appreciated.

amybai said...

*clutches towel in white-fingered fists*

Not panicking. Not panicking.

I've decided I'm reciting Vogon poetry until somebody buys my book.

Heather said...

I was restructured out of Random House 5 years ago. I didn't find RH to be terribly accommodating in the layoff. I was a field rep so I worked from home and had a company car. The layoff meant I needed to buy a car and move to a smaller (and cheaper) apartment. I learned you cannot get a car loan or apartment lease when you don’t have a job, and though RH was still paying me severance, they refused to claim me as an employee for these purposes. I’ve heard from HR folks at other companies that this is unusual – most companies will continue to claim an employee as such while they’re getting severance, as they know employees sometimes need to move or make big changes based on the layoff and they want to give them the resources to do so.

Oh, and you know how I was informed of my layoff? My boss called and asked me to meet him at the airport. I asked if I was being laid off. He refused to tell me, and just kept insisting I meet him at the airport. I begged him to just tell me over the phone if he was going to lay me off, and he just kept saying to meet him at the airport. So I was informed of my layoff in the baggage claim of an airport. I guess it works to RH’s advantage. I was so concerned with trying to maintain my composure and not cry in the middle of the airport that I couldn’t ask any questions or discuss the matter at all. I mostly nodded and took the layoff packet from him before he jumped back on a plane to break the news to the next person.

I loved being an RH field rep. It’s the best job I ever had. But they broke my heart when they dumped me.

Helen said...

Thank you for being a safe harbour in the growing storm.

Heather said...

Colleen, no blame for the layoff, but you do deserve lots of credit for helping me land a job I loved. So thank you!

And you're right about the wonderful people and amazing books. It was a great thing to be a part of.

Hagelrat said...

Ah but hysteria is the order of the day. Seriously, I have given up reading the news because everything is a major disaster these days. Oh no, someone tripped in the street, it must be the weight of the falling sky! I am cheerfully spending my disposable income on books for two reasons, I would rather have holes in my clothes than nothing new to read and really, I suspect I shall survive this latest apocolypse and would feel very silly if they found me in a basement hugging a can of beans when the credit crunch passes.