Leaver and Smith buy Carlton Books and launch new publishing group

Leaver and Smith buy Carlton Books and launch new publishing group

Publishers Mark Smith and Marcus Leaver have set up a new publishing group and acquired Carlton Books.

The pair’s venture, Welbeck Publishing Group, will acquire a number of established companies, starting with Carlton, and develop start-up businesses in scalable market areas. Welbeck will focus on illustrated non-fiction and children’s books for the co-edition market alongside commercial fiction and non-fiction.

Smith, formerly c.e.o. at Bonnier's Zaffre division, and before that c.e.o. at Quercus, said: “Marcus and I have known each other for a long time and have a unified view on the type of modern publishing business we want to build, playing to our respective strengths to create a broad-based trade publishing business headquartered in the UK but with a global outlook.”

Marcus Leaver, a former c.e.o. of The Quarto Group, said: "I look forward to working with Mark to build a publishing business where we can focus solely on making and selling books. We have long-term funding that will enable us to build the Group patiently, working with our extensive network of partners, authors, illustrators and photographers around the world; Carlton is an excellent springboard for us, and we are pleased Jonathan is staying with the company in a new guise."

Jonathan Goodman, who founded Carlton in 1992, will remain at the firm as publisher at large. He commented: "I have known both Mark and Marcus for many years. My partner, Michael Zilkha, and I are pleased to be selling our company to them and their investors. They will provide new dimensions to Carlton's established business and I look forward to even greater successes in the future."

Figures for Carlton published last October showed turnover declined by 26% from £14.6m to £10.8m for the year ended 31st December 2017. The fall was partly blamed on the end of the colouring book boom and transitions. Gross profit declined 24%, from £5.7m to £4.4m, while operating profit fell 81%, from £1.5m to £283,977

At the time, Goodman forecast an “excellent” 2018 and told The Bookseller that, having stepped back in 2016, business decisions had been "slower than usual", while "internal disruption" in the form of a refurbishment of its offices had "impacted on efficiency".

Sales through Nielsen BookScan's UK TCM were £2.83m in 2018, a 6.2% increase year on year.