Gerald (Jerry) Harrison, former president of the children’s book division of Random House, died on January 19. He was 83.
Harrison came to Random House Children's Books in 1970, from Norcross Greeting Cards, where he had been a sales executive. One of the first talents he brought to the company was Waldo Hunt, who has been widely credited with bringing pop-ups into the modern publishing mainstream. Harrison was largely responsible for expanding Random House Children’s Books into mass-market outlets by introducing inexpensive formats, lowering price points, and forging relationships with such licensing powerhouses as American Greetings, LucasFilms, Children's Television Workshop, and Disney.
In the early 1980s, he headed up the Random House Merchandise Division, whose sales force was dedicated exclusively to children’s books. Patty Sullivan, who was svp of sales and marketing under Harrison, told PW, "Jerry was known for his dry sense of humor and keen instinct for commercial success. When he signed up the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on a handshake with the creator, we thought he had lost his mind, and told him so. Of course, the license went on to sell millions and millions of copies, and he would never let us forget it."
During his tenure, Harrison expanded the division’s product lines to include puzzles, games, crayons, and some of the earliest electronic formats. At the time of his retirement in 1996, he was president of Random House Children’s Books and executive v-p of Random House, Inc.