Tart steps up as publisher of Penguin Books US as Court retires

Tart steps up as publisher of Penguin Books US as Court retires

President and publisher of Penguin Books US Kathryn Court will retire later this year, PRH US has announced with Brian Tart set to step up to the role in a series of staff changes. 

Court will retire in December following 42 years at the helm of Penguin Books. In January, Tart, who heads up Viking, will take on the additional concurrent duties as president and publisher, Penguin Books. 

Penguin Random House US president Allison Dobson confirmed the changes in a series of memos to staff today and announced Patrick Nolan has been promoted to deputy publisher, Penguin Books, and will report to Tart.. 

Paying tribute to “one of the most accomplished and admired careers in book publishing”, Dobson said Court “has been a Penguin standard bearer ensuring literary excellence, commitment to supporting new voices, and passion for delighting readers around the world”.

Following a stint in London, Court headed to New York and Penguin Books in 1977 and rose to the position of editorial director in two years before becoming editor in chief of Viking Penguin in 1984. Eight years later she was promoted to senior vice president, publisher and editor in chief of Penguin Books, adding the title of president in 2000. 

In 1980, she edited and published Waiting for the Barbarians, the first novel by South African author J M Coetzee, who went on to win a Nobel Prize. In 1995, she published Mary McGarry Morris’ Songs in Ordinary Time, a selection for Oprah’s Book Club. In 2018, another of her discoveries, Rebecca Makkai, was shortlisted for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Great Believers.  She is the long-time editor of John le Carré, Janice Y K Lee, and Sir Ken Robinson. 

Dobson added: “I admired Kathryn long before we ever met, having loved reading many of the books she edited and published. But it was only upon getting to work closely with her that I came to truly appreciate the strength of her leadership. Kathryn has never stopped challenging herself to do more for our authors and for ourselves. In shaping Penguin’s culture, she has set a high standard for creativity and results we always will strive to build upon. Kathryn’s passion for Penguin will be missed – but no more than we will miss her.”

Announcing other changes, Dobson told staff that Victoria Savanh, associate editor, Penguin will now report to Nolan and Elda Rotor, vice president and publisher, Penguin Classics, will report to Tart. The rest of the Penguin Books and Penguin Classics editorial staff continue their current reporting. 

Penguin Books will continue to be the home for trade paperback publications of Penguin Press hardcover editions, though this program now will report to Ann Godoff, president and editor-in-chief, Penguin Press, who continues to report directly to Dobson, and will be overseen by Matt Boyd, associate publisher and director of marketing, Penguin Press.

Dobson said: “In many ways, more formally bringing together Viking and Penguin organisationally is rooted in the original merger of Viking and Penguin in 1977.  While other considerations eventually altered that structural alignment, in recent years, the two programs have become closer than ever, with all Viking hardcovers published as paperbacks under the Penguin Books imprint. Viking and Penguin share publicity and marketing teams, and many of the editorial staff acquire and publish titles across both lists—a practice we will continue to encourage.

“Brian’s appointment as president and publisher, Viking and Penguin, also recognises his successful accomplishments and contributions as the leader of Viking Books.  He was named to head Viking in January 2015, after previously serving as president and publisher of our Dutton, Avery, and Gotham imprints.  Brian’s strong leadership skills embrace every aspect of our publishing and have only grown more extensive and become even more widely valued in his Viking role.  With his astute attention to the demands of the marketplace and the tremendous care he takes with authors, agents, and his own team, I know that both the Viking and Penguin imprints with Brian at their helm will thrive.”