Former Headline m.d. and chair Jane Morpeth, described as a "true force of nature", has died from complications owing to motor neurone disease.
Morpeth (pictured with author Victoria Hislop in 2016) was m.d. of Headline for seven years, after joining the company as a commissioning editor in 1986, becoming deputy m.d. in 2006 and graduating to the post of m.d. in 2009. In 2016, she stepped away from her m.d. role to become chair of the Headline group, developing growth strategies and focusing on key authors.
The Bookseller understands that she died from complications owing to motor neurone disease at the weekend. She described on her Twitter account how she wanted to “tackle MND as a warrior”.
Hachette c.e.o. David Shelley told The Bookseller: “Jane Morpeth was one of the most talented publishers of our time, and a key force behind the long-term success of Headline. She had a brilliant instinct for fiction publishing and the Headline list is testament to that: authors Jane worked with included Martina Cole, Neil Gaiman, Andrea Levy, James Patterson and many more.
“Jane was a true force of nature: charismatic, passionate and extremely good fun. She was also very nurturing to many of us early in our careers, myself included, and devoted a lot of energy to helping those around her and to making the industry a better place to work in. All of us who knew her and worked with her at Hachette will miss her hugely.”
Others paid tribute to Morpeth on Twitter. Harriet Bourton, publisher at Orion Fiction, wrote: “So saddened by the news of Jane Morpeth’s death over the weekend. She was my first boss and was the most amazing influence at that early stage: fierce, relentless, rigorous, impassioned and with a wicked sense of humour. So many people will have brilliant memories of her.”
Vicky Palmer, marketing director at Transworld, said: "Heartbreaking. So many of us have such amazing memories of her and are so lucky to have grown under her guidance and wit. One of a kind."
Morpeth was described as "exceptional" by publishing director Frankie Gray, who tweeted: "What an honour it was to learn from her. And what fun we had at our happy desk, outside her office."
Designer Ami Smithson tweeted: “Remembering Jane Morpeth today, who helped me hugely as a fledgeling art director at #Headline She was a force of nature, passionate about what she did, was funny and mischievous and will be missed very much.”