Friday, January 13, 2012

Random House of Canada becomes sole owner of McClelland & Stewart

Alice Munro
Mark Medley The National Post

McClelland & Stewart, the Canadian publisher of Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Leonard Cohen and Alice Munro, and one of the country’s most storied cultural institutions, has been sold to Random House of Canada, its long-time part-owner.

In 2000, Toronto real-estate developer Avie Bennett, who acquired the company in 1986, donated 75% of the publisher to the University of Toronto and sold the remaining 25% to Random House of Canada, a partnership with existed, relatively unchanged, for the past 11 years.

However, according to a press release announcing the sale, the “challenges facing publishers, including a difficult economy and digital-driven transitions facing the industry, have put significant pressure on M&S, and it has been experiencing financial challenges.”

“We believe with McClelland & Stewart fully within the Random House of Canada family we will more effectively be able to meet these challenges to ensure the growth and long-term stability of this iconic Canadian publisher,” said Brad Martin, Random House of Canada’s president and CEO, in a statement.

Michael Ondaatje
Said University of Toronto President David Naylor: “We greatly respect the care and attention with which Random House of Canada has managed their 25% ownership over the past eleven years and are confident that Random House of Canada’s commitment to McClelland & Stewart will help it achieve even greater success in the future.”

He was unavailable for further comment.

Random House of Canada is owned by German conglomerate Bertelsmann AG. However, according to the press release, the “needed regulatory approval has been obtained from the responsible authority.”

According to the press release, Random House of Canada intends to maintain the M&S imprint, as well as the New Canadian Library, Emblem Editions, Signal, and Tundra Books, the company’s children’s book division. Support was also promised for M&S’s lauded poetry program, as well as to fund the Journey Prize, an annual short story award for emerging writers, and its accompanying anthology.

Leonard Cohen
“Random House of Canada has been a wonderful partner for McClelland & Stewart for the past eleven years,” said Bennett in a statement. “The commitments they have made to upholding the tradition of M&S and the ongoing focus on Canadian publishing assures me that M&S is in good hands.”

Thus far, no staffing changes have been announced. Doug Pepper, M&S’s president and publisher since 2004, has been named to Random House of Canada’s Executive Committee. Also staying on is Executive Vice President and highly-regarded editor, Ellen Seligman. Although M&S maintained editorial independence from its corporate parent (and even competes against it when it came to signing authors) Random House of Canada shared support services with M&S, including sales, production, design and human resources. “Our processes really aren’t going to change that much, since we already are really quite integrated with them,” said Pepper in an interview.

“In a pretty challenging marketplace, especially in Canadian publishing, the kind of stability and vision for growth that Random House – not just in Canada but around the world – gives us is a good thing,” he added.

“It’s just a logical extension of what they’ve been doing all along,” agreed Toronto-based literary agent Denise Bukowski, who started her career at M&S. “I worked there for a long time in the 70s, and it’s a very beloved place to me. But I think it can only benefit from the kinds of modernization that Random House will bring to it."

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