Jonathan Karp took over as CEO of Simon & Schuster in May 2020 under the most challenging conditions. His appointment came roughly two weeks after widely respected CEO Carolyn Reidy died unexpectedly. Moreover, the country was two months into a global pandemic, and on the cusp of a long-overdue social and racial justice awakening that demanded change from a publishing industry with a long-standing diversity problem. And of course, S&S’s parent company, ViacomCBS, had only recently put the publisher up for sale.

In taking over for Reidy, Karp told employees that while S&S’s mission remained the same—“to publish the most satisfying books we can find, with passion and purpose and profitability”—the “times into which we will be discovering and publishing these books” was changing. Karp was well positioned to help S&S focus on its book lists, having taken the editorial route to the top spot at S&S. He entered publishing in 1989 at Random House and joined S&S in 2010 as publisher of Simon & Schuster’s flagship imprint and eight years later was named president and publisher of Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing.

Dawn Davis, senior v-p and publisher, 37 Ink, and executive editor, Simon & Schuster, appreciates how Karp’s background has influenced his managerial style. “Whether I love a proposal and have no doubt in my mind how to publish it, have questions about a book’s viability and want to talk it through with someone, or want advice on how to take a proposal from a good idea to a great book, it’s Jon’s opinion I seek out,” Davis says. “Unfailingly wise, he uses his years of experience to support his team rather than rule over it, sharing his opinion without imposing it on us.”

Karp needed to draw on all his experience in 2023 as the uncertainty over S&S’s future dragged on when Penguin Random House’s acquisition of the publisher was blocked by the government in late 2022, forcing a new round of bids this year. Throughout it all, S&S posted impressive financial results. In 2022, revenue topped $1 billion for the first time as a standalone trade publisher. And while sales cooled in 2023, the company continued to do well enough to draw a $1.6 billion price from the private equity firm KKR, which closed the purchase of S&S on October 30.

Karp is staying on as CEO, and he is hopeful that with the support of KKR, S&S will be able to invest more aggressively to grow the publisher. “I was fortunate to inherit an excellent executive team, a company of conscientious colleagues, and a luminous list of authors,” Karp says about his CEO run at S&S. “They deserve all of the credit for our success, and they are the reason I’m confident that Simon & Schuster will continue to thrive in the years ahead.”

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