Late last month, SAGE Publishing founder and owner Sara Miller McCune signed over her voting shares and control of the education and research company she founded with her husband in 1965 to the independent SAGE-SMM Trust. The move was a key step in fulfilling her goal, first devised in 1989, to ensure that SAGE remains an independent company focused on its mission to build bridges to knowledge through educational and research publishing.
Blaise Simqu, who began at SAGE as a production editor and has been company CEO since 2004, said the plans for the trust have been updated over the years as the company expanded. Headquartered in Thousands Oaks, Calif., SAGE now has about 2,000 employees in seven locations, publishes more than 1,000 journals and 900 books annually, and has an annual revenue of between $400 and $500 million. Even with the disruptions caused by the pandemic, Simqu said SAGE has been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 10% to 20% over the last several years.
Simqu said that Miller McCune, who is now 80, had envisioned from the beginning that the company would remain an independent publisher and would keep its focus on its educational mission rather than worrying about hitting financial targets. That approach, Simqu said, has allowed SAGE to take a long-term view toward its business and create an atmosphere in which employees feel valued and want to stay.
Under the estate plan, SAGE’s owners will eventually be a number of higher education institutions, but control will remain vested in the SAGE-SMM Trust. The Trust’s documents state that its “primary purpose is to maintain SAGE as a successful privately owned educational publishing and information dissemination company, and to provide for the continuity and preservation of its business, activities, policies and corporate identity.” Trustees are given a mandate to “at all times administer and exercise voting rights...in accordance with this primary purpose.”
Simqu told PW that over the years, McCune has received “hundreds” of offers to buy the company, but that she remains firm in her conviction that the best course for SAGE is to stay independent. Simqu will remain SAGE CEO, and he said that there are no plans to change the management team, many of whom have been with the company for over 25 years. “We will continue to be faithful to our mission to create the highest quality educational materials and tools possible,” he said.