Jon Elek will join Welbeck Publishing Group as group publisher to lead the new commercial fiction imprint Portland Press.
Portland will begin publishing new titles in 2020 and will concentrate on crime, thrillers, romance and women’s fiction titles as the imprint focuses on building debut authors into brands "while enhancing the worldwide sales of established brand name authors", said Welbeck.
The new imprint is part of the group's growth strategy underpinning Welbeck's acquisition of Carlton Books.
Elek joined AP Watt (APW) in 2009, and moved to United Agents when APW was acquired by them in 2012. As an agent and, before that, as a publisher at Penguin, Elek has worked closely with a long list of Sunday Times, New York Times, and Amazon bestselling authors.
Executive director Mark Smith said: “I’ve always been impressed with Jon’s relationships with authors and his knowledge of the global publishing market. Jon has a sixth sense when it comes to spotting commercial potential and his stellar list of clients at United is testament to this. Jon has always put his authors first and as an author-focussed company, we are so pleased that Jon will be building Portland Press for us.”
Elek added: “After ten years as an agent, I have developed a pretty good understanding of what authors need from a publisher, both creatively and commercially. Following some inspiring conversations with Mark about our shared values and how they could provide the foundation for a new commercial fiction business, I am thrilled to be embarking on this exciting endeavour. I have loved my time at both AP Watt and UA, and look forward to staying in close contact with my former clients and colleagues.”
United Agents paid tribute to Elek saying: “Jon has been an energetic and committed colleague, always loyal to his authors and focussed on achieving the best care for them, and the best deals. We are sorry to see him leave, but look forward to watching him build an exciting list at Welbeck, and to continuing to work with him in his new role.”
Publishers Mark Smith, formerly c.e.o. at Bonnier's Zaffre division, and before that c.e.o. at Quercus, and Marcus Leaver, a former c.e.o. of The Quarto Group, set up Welbeck and acquired Carlton Books last month.
The latest hire comes weeks after Welbeck confirmed Wayne Davies and Alex Allan joining as group publishers in its Carlton Books division.