The persistent rumors during BEA about the state of Tokyopop turned out to be mostly right. The Los Angeles manga publisher announced a major restructuring that will create two separate divisions—the Tokyopop Inc. publishing unit and Tokyopop Media, a digital and comics-to-films unit—under the Tokyopop Group’s holding company. The moves will result in the layoffs of about 39 Tokyopop staffers.
Tokyopop is also dramatically cutting by half the number of titles it plans to release (typically the house releases nearly 500 books a year) and will also pullout as a major exhibitor at the San Diego Comic-Con International, the most influential comics convention of the year. Tokyopop’s Japanese entity will be separated into two units as well: one under Tokyopop Media and the other will continue as the Tokyopop group’s holding company. Tokyopop’s European operations will not be affected.
The move comes just as Borders, the top retailer of manga in the U.S., announced a restructuring of its business resulting in over 270 layoffs. During BEA, many comics publishers were concerned about the impact of changes at Borders on the sales of graphic novels and manga in particular. But Tokyopop’s restructuring is also meant to highlight its efforts in getting its original manga content turned into film projects as well as to focus on the growth of its digital and mobile phone comics initiatives
Stuart Levy, CEO and chief creative officer of Tokyopop, said the restructuring was “the right business move,” and said the changes would align its publishing business with current book retail trends. “The time is now for us to focus our publishing business to overcome current market challenges,” Levy said in a release. “Fewer releases will allow for less cannibalization at retail. At the same time, the opportunity is significant in the digital and comics-to-film space. We must adjust our overhead to properly execute this new business plan.”
Tokyopop also announced two executive appointments. Tokyopop group president and COO John Parker will take over as publisher of Tokyopop. And Tokyopop director of marketing Marco Pavia has been promoted to associate publisher of the publishing division. In addition, current Tokyopop publisher Mike Kiley will now lead Tokyopop Media, the new digital and film unit.
Parker said he intends to “significantly reduce our annual output, focusing on the most successful continuing series and the most promising new titles.” He also said that Pava will focus on developing new lines. Kiley pointed to more than 25,000 pages of original comics and manga published by Tokyopop over the last three years and said, “with the relationships we have established in the past year, Tokyopop Media is ready to move quickly into the comics-to-film and digital markets.”