Hachette UK’s new distribution centre will be named after retiring chief executive Tim Hely Hutchinson, it was announced at an emotional farewell party held at London's Tate Britain, attended by fellow publishing executives, former colleagues, agents and authors. Guests included Gail Rebuck, Charlie Redmayne, Tom Weldon, Amanda Ridout, Martina Cole and Jonny Geller.
Hachette Livre chief executive Arnaud Nourry praised Hely Hutchinson for his “honesty, skill, vigour, warmth, sensitivity and imagination” and his “generosity, vision, audacity, determination and brilliant strategic thinking”. These, said Nourry, defined Hely Hutchinson’s “remarkable career in publishing”. Nourry remarked how he had come to appreciate Hely Hutchinson’s “composure and business acumen” when Hachette had been negotiating to buy Time Warner. “Tim and I spent a month in New York in due diligence, poring over documents provided in the data room, and trying to make sense of it all in order to come up with an acceptable price over innumerable breakfasts, lunches and dinners, one on one or with our bankers and lawyers. It was a tense but exciting period.”
He also recalled Hely Hutchinson’s founding of Headline, the company he launched 31 years ago with Sue Fletcher and Sian Thomas which later merged with Hodder & Stoughton and later became Hachette UK. “Tim is an unlikely radical but the company he created radically changed publishing. Extraordinary as it may seem now, given that this is the foundation of good publishing, Tim and Sue established the principle that publishers and authors are partners in the publishing process. Headline adopted a number of ‘author-friendly policies’ including the uniquely straightforward contract that apparently Tim himself typed on the company Amstrad.”
Under Hely Hutchinson, he said that Hachette UK had “become not just the best publishing group in the UK – I am sorry Tom, Richard and Charlie – but in every territory it publishes in, in my opinion”. He added that “Tim has steered the company through massive change. Once he had been convinced that the digital revolution was here to stay, he embraced the change, leading the company in a digital innovation day and personally embracing all things Apple.” And he stressed that it was “never in my plan that Tim should retire from Hachette at this time”, revealing that he had told his boss—Arnaud Lagardere—that should anything happen to him, Hely Hutchinson should take his place.
Hely Hutchinson picked out a number of colleagues, past and present, in his speech, including of Lis Tribe, Chris Emerson, Richard Kitson, David Young, Ursula Mackenzie, Martin Neild, Jamie Hodder-Williams, Amanda Ridout, Jane Morpeth, Charles Nettleton, Philip Walters, and retiring PA Anne Musgrave. He also toasted his partner Sean Swallow.
He praised his successor David Shelley. “It will be apparent that I am intensely proud of what we have created at Hachette and, as I mentioned, this is greatly to do with recruiting and energising talented people. I marvel at the amazing people throughout the business, and I am so pleased they will be led for the foreseeable future by David Shelley. David Shelley was recruited by Ursula rather than me, but I have enjoyed working with him, defended him from marauders and backed his various enterprises, which included taking on J K Rowling. Backing that particular decision was perhaps not very difficult . . .
"Change is essential for healthy publishing and I am sure David will lead many changes at Hachette; I know he will do this not only well, but also with a deep consciousness that this is a people business in which a successful house is a happy one. I wish him and all my colleagues an incredibly satisfying, exciting and successful future.”
And of his 40-year publishing life, which began with a graduate traineeship at Macmillan, he said: “I feel so lucky because my whole career has been the realisation of both a plan and a dream.”