Bertelsmann AG eyes restructuring

Olson tapped head of worldwide publishing operations

BERLIN — In a move to heighten its international profile and sharpen the focus on its Internet activities, media giant Bertelsmann said Thursday that it is merging its publishing operations and appointing an American, Random House CEO and chairman Peter Olson, as head of its worldwide publishing operations, effective April 2001.

Since taking over Random House in 1998, the company has become the world’s biggest seller of English-language books — one of the motivating factors behind the restructuring.

Woessner set to retire

Bertelsmann will introduce a new management structure when Frank Woessner, the current head of its publishing and book sales operation Bertelsmann Buch, retires in March 2001. The new structure will include Olson and Berlin-based Klaus Eierhoff.

Olson will be the first American to sit on the company’s board. In his new position as chairman of the book publishing division, Olson will oversee all of Bertelsmann’s book publishing operations worldwide. Based in New York, he will continue to run Random House.

Online togetherness

Eierhoff will oversee the newly created Bertelsmann Direct division. Unit is being set up to bring together the company’s popular book clubs, e-commerce activities, online service providers such as European bookseller BOL, a 40% stake in U.S. Internet bookshop Barnesandnoble.com, half of AOL Europe and its multimedia services unit Pixelpark.

The group now posts nearly 70% its publishing revenue in North America. Bertelsmann’s sales in the United States have nearly tripled in the last decade, and this year’s U.S. sales, amounting to $4.7 billion, have surpassed those in Germany for the first time.

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