HarperCollins reshuffles, lays off 74 after merger

Weisbach arm folding

NEW YORK — HarperCollins Publishers announced Tuesday it is realigning its business, consolidating imprints and laying off 74 employees as a result of its summer merger with William Morrow & Co.

HarperCollins, a division of News Corp., bought William Morrow from Hearst in July for an estimated $200 million.

“We wanted to make this transition quickly to minimize the impact on our employees, our authors, the agent community and all of our customers,” said HarperCollins president and CEO Jane Friedman.

Friedman told Daily Variety the layoffs represent a fraction of the company’s North American work force of 1,950. She said HarperCollins’ adult imprints will shrink to 16 from 24 and its children’s imprints, headed by Susan Katz, to eight from 17.

Imprint gone

One imprint to disappear is William Morrow’s Rob Weisbach Books, whose president and publisher resigned Tuesday. “We had discussed with Rob the possibility of taking on a senior position in the HarperCollins General Books Group, but he has chosen to pursue other opportunities,” Friedman said.

“We looked at the imprints, and where there was redundancy, we consolidated,” she said.

William Morrow’s purchase has transformed HarperCollins into the second-biggest U.S. publisher after Random House and gives it the market share it needs to “get its books noticed,” Friedman said.

The publisher has lived through long periods of speculation that it might be sold, but has turned itself around over the past few years and is clearly an asset that its News Corp. parent intends to invest in. Friedman reports to Lachlan Murdoch, who runs News Corp.’s U.S. publishing operations.

Hemming leads

The expanded company will be led by a reconstituted HarperCollins General Books Group. Formerly called the Adult Trade Group, the unit will be headed by Cathy Hemming, who has been promoted to prexy from executive VP and keeps the title of publisher.

The General Books Group will be split into four divisions: HarperTrade, Morrow/Avon, HarperInformation and HarperSanFrancisco, a publisher of religious, spiritual and New Age titles.

“We have designed this structure to allow each imprint within each division to flourish as a clearly identified, recognizable entity,” Hemming said in a statement.

In the HarperTrade division, Hemming will lead HarperCollins. Susan Weinberg will top Perennial and Quill, Diane Reverend will head Cliff Street Books and Dan Halpern will run the Ecco Press.

Lisa Queen will continue as William Morrow vice president, associate publisher and editorial director in the Morrow/Avon imprint. Jennifer Hershey has been appointed VP, associate publisher and editor-in-chief of Avon and will oversee Eos and Harper Entertainment.

Michael Greenstein will serve as a consultant overseeing all publishing operations.