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Budge leaves, Perrett joins, as HC restructures
01.01.70 | Benedicte Page
HarperCollins has announced major changes on its executive team as it looks to streamline its business. Group publisher Belinda Budge is leaving the company, while the Collins Education and Language divisions are being merged.
A new role of group strategy and digital director is also being created for "entrepreneurial" incomer Nick Perrett (pictured), who joins publishing from a background in gaming.
With Budge stepping down, the role of group publisher will be phased out, with c.e.o. Victoria Barnsley taking on more responsibility for content.
The executive board will also be expanded, with Carole Tonkinson, publisher of Harper NonFiction, Kate Elton, publisher of HarperFiction, and Ann-Janine Murtargh, publisher of Children’s, now reporting directly to Barnsley and joining David Roth-Ey, executive publisher of Fourth Estate and Press, on the executive board. They will be joined by Tom Fussell, group commercial director, and Oliver Wright, group sales director.
Barnsley said: “In a fast-moving business environment, we cannot afford to stand still for a minute. It is critical that we keep our structure as lean and flat as possible to give us the pace and flexibility to adapt to a rapidly-evolving market.”
She also paid tribute to Budge, saying: “I am personally very saddened by Belinda’s decision to leave the business but equally I understand her wish to pursue other creative projects after 20 years at HarperCollins. It is impossible to quantify her contribution, especially in the last years as group publisher – she has been in the vanguard leading change and has helped me reshape the business for the future. We will all miss her enormously.”
She added that the “silver lining” to her departure was the chance to expand the board and become more involved in content. “It’s where my roots in publishing began and I’m looking forward to being able to devote more of my time to the creative side of the business.”
Collins Education and Language divisions will now form a new division, Collins Learning, with Education m.d. Colin Hughes leading the new group. Rob Scriven, currently m.d. of Collins Language, will leave the business at the end of the year. Sheena Barclay, current m.d. of Collins Geo, will continue her role as well as becoming deputy m.d. of the Collins Learning.
Barnsley said: “Collins is a terrific global brand and it makes obvious sense to bring together our Education and Language teams where there is already much synergy.”
Nick Perrett will take on a new role that sees him leading the digital team, with responsibility for business development, operations and audio, as well as heading the corporate strategy team and digital product innovation team.
Perrett’s background is in digital businesses, and he is coming from a role as executive vice president of corporate development at Jagex, the owner and operator of the online multiplayer game Runescape.
Group m.d. Simon Johnson told The Bookseller: “I’ve been looking for almost a year to find someone for this role, looking for the person who combined digital experience with that strategic edge. I thought someone from outside the industry would be able to come in with a completely new take on things. Nick has that entrepreneurial spirit, and will be a disruptor."
Johnson compared the evolution of digital publishing to that of computer games. “With gaming, the technology has moved on to its seventh or eighth generation of platforms, whereas in publishing, we’re still on the first or second. There is very little product innovation. Most people are doing vanilla e-books and porting texts straight onto a device, not anticipating how things will change.”
He added that, although “the novel is sacred”, there could be huge changes in how books are written and accessed. “Someone has to define the digital world – define what the new paperback will be.”
Digital is becoming increasingly central to HC, with Johnson saying that through the company's own figures, its market share of print books is around 8%, but its market share of e-book sales is “one and a half to two times that”. He also estimated that it will not be long before 50% of all sales, for print and e-books, are made online.
Perrett said: “The book has enormous potential for digital innovation in the next five years. Digital is not only changing the form of the book, but also the way books are written, curated, delivered and monetised. This digital disruption presents publishers with a number of challenges, but also offers incredible opportunity for innovation in the relationships with authors and readers.”