Matt Richell, the c.e.o. of Hachette Australia and chairman of Hachette New Zealand, died on Wednesday (2nd July) following an accident sustained while surfing, the publisher has confirmed.
Richell, 41, had been surfing at a beach at Tamarama in New South Wales, when he was swept onto rocks, police told the Sydney Morning Herald.
Tim Hely Hutchinson, group chief executive of Hachette UK, said in a statement: "With great sorrow, and in shock, we have to announce the death of our beloved friend and colleague, Matt Richell, c.e.o. of Hachette Australia and Chairman of Hachette New Zealand, who was tragically killed in a surfing accident today, Wednesday 2nd July, in Sydney."
He added: "Our thoughts and most heartfelt condolences are with Matt’s wife Hannah, his family, his colleagues and many friends in publishing and more widely."
Richell, who was from the UK, had settled in Sydney with his wife and two children, aged six and three.
Police said Richell had been surfing with a friend when he was washed north of the beach. A rescue jet ski was sent to help, when a wave knocked him onto rocks, where he sustained a head injury. Other surfers and paramedics performed CPR, but he could not be revived.
Coleen O'Neill of the Bronte Surf Life Saving Club told the Herald that the area where Richell was surfing was "very treacherous" due to underwater currents.
Widow Hannah Richell has praised her husband's "beautiful spirit." Meanwhile a statement on Hachette Australia's website mourned Richell's "devastating" loss, saying: "Matt was such an outstanding person in so many ways. He was only just hitting his stride as our c.e.o. and his passion, drive and vision for Hachette was so infectious and exciting to be around. He encouraged all of us here to be creative, thoughtful and ambitious on behalf of our authors. There was no greater supporter of authors and their work than Matt. He was so pleased with and proud of everything that Hachette Australia and Hachette New Zealand are accomplishing and all of us here liked and respected him enormously. He was a friend and a mentor to everyone.
"He loved this industry and everything it represents. The Australian, New Zealand and indeed the global publishing industry has lost a shining light and a true champion. We are grieving but have been deeply moved by the outpouring of support, admiration and love for Matt from all his colleagues and friends – he will be truly missed."