Ray Griffith became CEO of the Follett Corp.—which provides a wide array of services to school, libraries, and higher education students—in May 2015. Less than a year later, he oversaw the acquisition of Baker & Taylor, which gave Follett more clout in the library wholesale business and an entry into the trade market.
By all accounts, the Follett–B&T merger has gone well and has helped to solve one of the most frequent issues that independent publishers complained about to B&T: slow payments. With the integration moving along, Follett made two bold moves in fall 2017 to enter fields with entrenched leaders.
On October 2, B&T announced its intention to aggressively enter the trade book distribution business with the launch of a new distribution arm called Baker & Taylor Publisher Services. The new unit will offer distribution and other functions to children’s, trade, K–12, higher education, and academic publishers. To help direct the new division, B&T hired Mark Suchomel as senior v-p of sales and client services and promoted Ken Fultz to senior v-p of operations. Suchomel is a well-known distribution executive who was president of IPG and, most recently, president of client services for the distribution arm of the Perseus Books Group before its sale to Ingram.
On October 3, Follett said it was entering the book fair market, which has long been dominated by Scholastic. Follett Book Fairs, which the company sees as a major growth opportunity, will be led by Tony Hopkins, senior v-p of business development for Follett. Hopkins called the 2017–2018 school year a “pilot year” in which the group will unveil fairs aimed at grades K–8. In subsequent years, Hopkins said, the fairs will be rolled out to early education and middle grade schools. Further into the future, Follett may also expand the program to include high schools.