Serbinis steps down as Kobo c.e.o

Serbinis steps down as Kobo c.e.o

Mike Serbinis has stood down as the chief executive of Kobo with immediate effect.

He has been replaced by Takahito "Taka" Aiki, the former c.e.o of Rakuten-owned telecomms company Fusion Communications.

A spokesperson for company said Serbinis had founded Kobo four years ago “with a vision to build an open platform for people to read any book, on any device, anywhere on the planet", saying: "Serbinis and his team built Kobo into a global leader, transforming the world of reading from its headquarters in Toronto.”

He will remain at the company as Kobo's founder and vice chairman.

Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten bought Kobo from the Canadian Indigo Books & Music in November 2011 for $315m. At the time, Indigo Books & Music c.e.o Heather Reismann said Rakuten had acquired Kobo to “meet the demands of competing with the very best players in the world."

Serbinis said: “I welcome Takahito as Kobo’s new c.e.o, and look forward to achieving Kobo’s future goals together. Kobo has achieved enormous success since it was founded in 2009. I am extremely proud of my team and what we have accomplished together; building a Canadian company that has grown beyond our borders to become a global leader in e-reading.”

Aiki will now relocate to Canada with his family and run Kobo from the company’s current headquarters in Toronto.

A Rakuten spokesperson said the new c.e.o brought “a wealth of experience in building and growing successful projects and companies” to the role and has “built his career on achieving ambitious goals and forging strong teams."

Most recently c.e.o of Japanese telecom company Fusion Communications, Rakuten said Aiki introduced new services that delivered sustainable growth and profitability to that company. “Under Taka’s leadership, Fusion became a reliable profit centre for parent company, Rakuten,” the company said. “He is also an accomplished former Manager at Bain & Company and was responsible for the online business of Japan’s top bookstore and video rental company Tsutaya, where he helped grow its online membership by 250% in only two years,” the company added.

Aiki said he was "excited" to be joining one of Canada's "most prominent brands" which he said was "a true innovator in e-reading." He added: "The Kobo team is extremely talented and, working together, I look forward to driving Kobo’s leadership in e-reading.”

A Kobo spokesperson told The Bookseller: "Mike and Taka will be spending the next few weeks focused on customers, partners and employees."

Since purchasing Kobo, the company has grown substantially in international markets, growing business by partnering with local book chains in many areas. The company now claims to have 18 million users in 190 countries and over four million titles across 68 languages.

In October 2011, Kobo partnered with WH Smith in the UK to sell its e-books and e-readers. However, the company is not thought to have gained significant market share in two prominent e-reading markets, the UK and the US. A recent Ofcom study released in September 2013 found that Amazon had a 79% share of the e-book market in the UK, while Kobo had just 5%.

Its management turnover in the UK has also been high, with the Kobo UK’s country manager Phil Wood hired in March 2012 and let go eight months later. The Bookseller also understands that UK retail marketing manager Nicci McKenzie also left the company last November and has yet to be replaced.

W H Smith c.e.o. Stephen Clarke commented this morning: “Mike Serbinis has been an outstanding leader at Kobo and a fantastic partner for WH Smith. The significant progress that we have made together in the past 2 years is in large part due to Mike’s foresight and hard work.  We look forward to building on this success with the Kobo team under the leadership of Taka Aiki, and expect our partnership to go from strength to strength.”