Mark Smith to leave Bonnier Zaffre

Mark Smith to leave Bonnier Zaffre

Mark Smith is stepping down as chief executive of Bonnier Zaffre after selling his equity stake in the firm.

Smith joined the publisher in 2014 when Bonnier Publishing was run by Richard Johnson, who departed earlier this year. At the time his company Zaffre Publishing was brought into Bonnier Publishing for an undisclosed fee. Now Smith has sold his minority stake to Bonnier Publishing and will leave at the end of July.

Bonnier Publishing said it is looking for a replacement for Smith and in the mean time the day-to-day running of the commercial fiction publisher will be done by Kate Parkin, executive director of adult publishing, Jane Harris, executive director of children’s publishing and James Horobin, executive director of sales and marketing, who will report directly into Bonnier Publishing UK c.e.o., Perminder Mann.

Smith was chief executive of Quercus which was sold to Hachette’s Hodder & Stoughton in 2014. In his time as Bonnier Zaffre c.e.o., he oversaw a number of high-cost, high profile poaches, including bringing Wilbur Smith over from HarperCollins in an eight-figure deal for six books, rumoured to be worth £15m, and Lynda La Plante, who moved to Zaffre from Simon & Schuster in a four-book deal. Other bestselling authors in his time include L S Hilton, Bear Grylls, Caz Frear, Rosie Goodwin, Isla Fisher and Chris Hoy.

Smith’s departure comes four months after that of Johnson, who exited with immediate effect in February after nine years in the role of c.e.o. of Bonnier Publishing, to be replaced by Jim Zetterlund, then chief operating officer and chief financial officer of Bonnier Books in Sweden. Financial accounts released earlier in the month had revealed Bonnier Publishing “wrestled with profitability problems” as the result of rapid growth in 2017 and the problems of the UK business had had a “strong negative effect” on the financial results of its Swedish parent company Bonnier Books. Sharon Parker, Bonnier Publishing's group chief operating officer, also announced she was stepping down from her role after 20 years with the company last month.

Smith said: “The last three and a half years at Bonnier Zaffre, working with the brilliant team in Marylebone to build a commercial fiction company that covers both children’s and adult, has been a truly unique experience and Bonnier Zaffre is now firmly established and ready for the next stage of growth. The strategy of having a very narrow focus on both the types and number of books we published has produced regular appearances in the bestseller charts and rapid growth. Looking to the future, our authors, agents and partners are in great hands and there will be many more exciting developments to come.”

Jim Zetterlund, acting group c.e.o and chairman, added that recently the Bonnier Zaffre team had “reached a turning point, building on their early success to establish Bonnier Zaffre as a highly respected commercial fiction publisher with a growing profile in the US”.

Of Smith, he added: “Mark joined Bonnier Publishing at the beginning of 2015 and, with the support of a stellar executive team, quickly gained a reputation for transforming debut authors into bestsellers and introducing established authors to new audiences around the world. What Mark has achieved in a relatively short period of time is quite remarkable and I’m deeply grateful for his help in setting up Bonnier Books’ English language fiction business. We’re all sorry to see him go, but I am confident that the business is in great hands with Kate (Parkin), Jane (Harris) and James (Horobin).”

The Bookseller approached the company asking about Smith's departure on Friday (13th July), but at the time it was denied.