SAGE Publishing founder and owner Sara Miller McCune has made good on her long-standing pledge to pass control of the company to an independent trust. The move is described a "key milestone" for the publisher, which means that SAGE can never be sold, but instead is guaranteed to remain independent and focused on its founding educational goals.
McCune, who is 80, co-founded SAGE with George McCune in 1965. Forgoing the payday of a company sale, she now passes all her voting shares to the SAGE-SMM Trust, although she retains 80% of non-voting shares and will continue to attend board meetings.
She commented: "My late husband George and I determined early on that we would never let SAGE be sold. We saw too many companies lose their goals, values and missions in mergers. By transferring control of SAGE to the SAGE-SMM Trust now, I am making sure that SAGE can remain independent and true to the purpose for which we established it."
According to the estate plan established by McCune and her husband, the beneficial owners of SAGE after both the founders' deaths will be a number of higher education institutions—whose identities have not yet been revealed—but with control remaining vested in the trust, whose priority is "to maintain SAGE as a successful privately owned educational publishing and information dissemination company, and to provide for the continuity and preservation of its business, activities, policies and corporate identity."
The key trustee of the SAGE-SMM Trust will be SAGE managing partner David Walsh, chairing a group of five.
No changes to the company's business strategy or management team will be made as a result of the move. SAGE reorganised its senior management team a year ago, after the retirement of SAGE International president Stephen Barr.
SAGE c.e.o. Blaise Simqu said: "We believe that Sara's estate plan is unique in publishing. Our independence has made us free to make long-term decisions, take risks and make investments that advance our mission and our academic goals for decades to come. By transferring control of SAGE Publishing to a trust, Sara secures our independence and our ability to preserve our freedom to act for the very long-term."
Ziyad Marar, president of global publishing, told The Bookseller the move would "ensure we can pursue our mission of building bridges to knowledge in the way that meets the needs of students and researchers", following the "mad dash and scramble to digital" that the pandemic had catalysed in the academy. "We will continue to broaden the portfolio and ensure the research people are doing is amplified in the right ways, and that teaching gets helped—and teaching has been particularly challenged," he said.
Marar added that the company had performed "surprisingly well" through Covid-19. "We had anticipated red alerts and some things went better than others, but even the things that went badly last year are doing better this year," he said. "What Higher Education needs these days is well met by what we have to offer."