Sargent to leave Macmillan US after 'disagreements on direction' of firm

Sargent to leave Macmillan US after 'disagreements on direction' of firm

John Sargent is leaving Macmillan US and its parent firm Holtzbrinck following “disagreements regarding the direction” of the publisher.

Sargent will leave his post as c.e.o. of Macmillan Publishers on 1st January 2021, with Don Weisberg, president of Macmillan US Trade, to be appointed as his successor. Susan Winslow, general manager of Macmillan Learning, will become president of Macmillan Learning.

In a statement, the company said: “ With great regret, Holtzbrinck Publishing Group announces the departure of John Sargent as of January 1st, 2021 as a result of disagreements regarding the direction of Macmillan.”

The announcement follows news in June that Macmillan Publishing was setting up a 13-member committee to run the company, with Sargent stepping back from day-to-day management “to make room for new voices”. A controversial year had also seen a storm over Flatiron's US publication of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and an undisclosed number of layoffs at the company when the pandemic began.

Stefan von Holtzbrinck commented: "The family shareholders, the supervisory board, my colleagues and I thank John Sargent deeply for making Macmillan a strong and highly successful publishing house and for his most helpful advice. John’s principles and exemplary leadership have always been grounded in worthy, essential causes, be it freedom of speech, the environment, or support for the most vulnerable. Since Holtzbrinck shares these ideals, they will live on.

“As part of John´s succession plan, Don Weisberg, a publishing executive of both the greatest reputation and experience, will head Macmillan's English language Trade Publishing Group as c.e.o. starting on January 1st. I am also very happy to announce that Susan Winslow, general manager, a truly accomplished executive in higher education, has accepted the position of president of Macmillan Learning.”

Sargent had been chief executive of the company since 2012 after originally joining Holtzbrinck in 1996 as c.e.o. of St Martin’s Press.

Pan Macmillan m.d. Anthony Forbes Watson would not give further details of why Sargent was leaving, but said of his US colleague: "“I will be very sad to see John go as he has been a terrific boss to me, and a true friend to me personally and to Pan Mac here, and in South Africa and India.  His open and magnanimous nature, wit and authenticity, as well as his shrewdness and experience, will be much missed and I know he will leave with the best wishes from all of us, who have benefited from his leadership.
“I am very pleased that Don Weisberg will pick up the baton and take on the leadership of the group: Don has been a particularly supportive colleague in the years he has been my opposite number in the US and his acuity, experience and wisdom as a publisher, combined with his warmth and congeniality as a colleague, make him the ideal choice to step into John's shoes.  We will work closely together to deliver and build further on our existing our plans for the future development of Pan Mac and the group.”