Trade hails 'energetic new generation' at Orion

Trade hails 'energetic new generation' at Orion

Hachette UK has “identified an energetic and talented new generation to take over at Orion and Little, Brown” but the loss of Lisa Milton as m.d. of Orion Fiction is “something of a blow”, trade figures have told The Bookseller.

It was announced yesterday that David Young is to retire as Orion c.e.o. at the end of this year, with David Shelley taking on the role, in addition to his responsibilities as c.e.o. of Little, Brown.

Meanwhile Katie Espiner will join as Orion’s m.d. from HarperCollins, while Jon Wood takes on the role of publisher, and Charlie King is promoted from Little, Brown’s group marketing, publicity and creative director to m.d. of Little, Brown.

Lisa Milton, current m.d. of Orion General, has no formal role in the new structure, but has been asked to stay on as a consultant.

Clare Alexander of Aitken Alexander told The Bookseller: “It is very sad for Hachette and for the industry that an outstanding publisher like David Young is retiring. He will be missed. But Hachette has identified an energetic and talented new generation to take over at Orion and Little Brown, and that’s exciting.

“We are now waiting to understand the over-arching new structure of Hachette Adult Books which does not appear to have been explained yet. “We think we are seeing two groups emerge, one run by Jamie Hodder-Williams encompassing Hodder, Headline, Murray and Quercus and the other run by David Shelley, encompassing Little Brown, Orion, Weidenfeld and Constable.”

Gordon Wise, literary agent at Curtis Brown and vice-president of the Association of Authors’ Agents, said Young’s retirement had been expected, and he saw “succession planning” in the announcement. “I don’t think it’s totally surprising that David Shelley has come into that role [of c.e.o.], although it is that he’s done it so quickly,” said Wise.

However, the continued rise of Shelley surprised some agents, with one pointing out that he had not yet become chief executive of Little, Brown before making another step up. 

Wise said Katie Espiner's move, from publisher of The Borough Press and HarperVoyager at HarperCollins, had come as “a surprise to everyone". He said: "I don’t think people necessarily knew she had those ambitions, to see her leaping from editorial to a more managerial role. It seems like Lisa Milton is being moved to one side which is a real pity, that is talent that would seem an enormous loss." Wise added: “As a whole Hachette do fantastic and extraordinary things as a group in their own way, and with their own flavour. You hope with change, it is to emphasise the good points.”

However one editor, who did not want to be named, said the loss of Milton did not bode well for women in publishing’s top jobs. “When you look at how many women work in publishing and how many actually hold the top positions the disparity is disappointing,” the editor commented. “I completely believe that those promoted deserve it, they're talented, driven and respected by the industry. But with so few women now holding m.d. status or equivalent in publishing it's something of a blow to lose Lisa. 

“I would like to think the situation would change in the future. It has to. There are too many talented women working in publishing for it not to. But in the meantime, it's something that needs further investigation in order to help support and motivate its female workforce that there will be opportunities for them higher up the ladder.”

Literary agent Ed Wilson, of Johnson and Alcock, said: “A degree of consolidation was inevitable with the move to Carmelite, but it's too soon to see any material changes. [It is] worth noting that this means Orbit and Gollancz, the two biggest beasts in the SFF jungle, are now under the same aegis. 

“It's a dynamic and progressive management team, a good blend of (relative) youth and experience. David's accomplishments speak for themselves, Katie has been hugely impressive at Borough, Jon knows that company inside out, and Charlie is an inspired choice for m.d. We shall see how it affects the structure further down the two companies. All in the fullness of time...”

Philip Gwyn Jones, currently editor-at-large at Scribe UK, knew Espiner when he worked at Flamingo, a now-shut literary imprint from HarperCollins.

He said: “Coming as it [this news] does in tandem with my wonderful old Flamingo sidekick Jon Butler’s imminent elevation to m.d. of Quercus and Charlie King, whom I know as a fellow trustee of English PEN to be tremendously astute, moral and diplomatic, moving up at Little Brown, Katie’s amazing appointment makes me immensely happy: it indicates that the brightest, sanest and kindest people in the generation behind mine in UK publishing are now rising to the positions of influence in the industry that will guarantee its future creativity, wit and wisdom.

“And it makes Hachette UK — in the shape of the outgoing David Young, who remains the single most moral and most effective executive I ever worked under, at HC, the rising David Shelley and, above all, the deft Mazarin that is Tim Hely Hutchinson — all of a sudden look like altogether the boldest and nimblest of the big houses.”