After a difficult and lengthy power struggle, Random House publisher and president Harold M. Evans has stepped down to take over as vice chairman of Mort Zuckerman’s publications company, it was announced Tuesday.
Anne Godoff, editor-in-chief at Random House, will take over the publishing house.
Sources said the handwriting was on the wall for Evans last June when Godoff was named editor-in-chief, slightly usurping some of his power. Random House, under chairman Alberto Vitale, was poised to make a change in the direction of the company.
“A guy like Harry would certainly manage his own exit very carefully. He would certainly not be pushed out,” said one industry source.
Behind ‘Good and Evil’
Godoff is one of Random House’s top editors, having secured such books as John Berendt’s “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
Evans, 68, was responsible for successes like Joe Klein’s “Primary Colors” and Jonathan Harr’s “A Civil Action.” But he also paid the $2 million-plus fee for Dick Morris’ political mea culpa about his work with the Clinton administration. And he nabbed rights to Manuel Noriega’s prison confessional as well as a book on New York Judge Sol Wachtler, both of which tanked.
Evans, who is married to New Yorker editor Tina Brown, had been with Random House for seven years.
“It’s a little of everything,” said one source. “Sure, part of it is economical. He bought books that were too expensive and that didn’t perform. But it’s also just time for a change. You’re in favor one day and you fail the next day.”
Insiders pointed out that editorial differences between Evans and Godoff existed, but were reluctant to identify them.
Evans, meanwhile, said he was eager to reunite with Zuckerman’s empire, where he had worked from 1984-86.
“This is a very happy reunion,” he said. “My excitement at returning to journalism is mitigated only by my regret at leaving Random House after seven creative years.”
Evans, an editor of the Sunday Times in London from 1967-81, came to the United States in 1984. He was editor of Atlantic Monthly Press and editorial director of U.S. News and World Report (both Zuckerman-owned) until 1986.
He joined Conde Nast as the founding editor of Conde Nast Traveler until 1990, when he was named Random House publisher and prexy.
At Random House, Evans re-launched the Modern Library of classics and introduced numerous marketing innovations such as a literary magazine and “At Random,” a breakfast meeting with major authors that is now on radio.
Titles under his domain include “My American Journey” by Colin Powell, “The Hot Zone” by Richard Preston and “Requiem,” commemorating the work of photographers in the Vietnam War.
He has also been editing Christopher Reeves’ life story, “Still Me,” and Disney chairman Michael Eisner’s account of his life in entertainment, both of which are set to be published in 1998.