Steven Pleshette Murphy will step down as CEO of Rodale September 1 and be succeeded by Maria Rodale, granddaughter of the company founder and daughter of Robert and Ardath Rodale who both led the publisher at different points. Maria Rodale has been with the company since 1987 and chairman since 2007. In a statement, Murphy said that “after a wonderful decade at Rodale, I have decided not to renew my contract and to take time off to pursue my own creative interests.”
Murphy joined Rodale in 2000 and was named CEO two years later. According to the company, Rodale experienced its most profitable period under Murphy as the publisher expanded into new geographic areas and new products. Murphy oversaw several restructurings within Rodale designed to bring the magazine, book, direct mail and Internet operations closer together. One of Murphy’s first major actions was to institute a plan called the “360 degree marketing” strategy aimed at speeding up the publication schedule for a book as well as using all of Rodale’s marketing channels to promote its titles. Its first big success was The South Beach Diet, which became a huge hit for the company. Another big book for Rodale under Murphy was Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Despite improving the performance of the entire company as well as the book group, the book unit has been overhauled several times during Murphy’s time, the most recent in March 2008 when Karen Rinaldi was named senior v-p, general manager and publishing director of Rodale Books. Soon after her appointment, Liz Perl, left as book group publisher resigned and moved to Simon & Schuster. In summer of 2008 Rinaldi brought in Colin Dickerman and Pam Krauss who serve as v-p, publishing directors of Rodale Books. Dickerman oversee the company’s narrative nonfiction list, while Krauss oversees the illustrated line. And Rodale was not immune from the recession’s impact on media companies. In November, Rodale cut approximately 10% of its workforce, include eight positions in the book group; in February the book group trimmed another four spots.