There have been many incarnations of Simon & Schuster since the publisher was formed in 1924 by Richard Simon and Max Schuster. And as the company celebrates its 100th anniversary this month, CEO Jonathan Karp said the S&S of today remains true to its roots. “I was struck by how both Simon and Schuster constantly had ideas for new books, how aggressively they sought out new authors, and how they would go to great lengths to make sure the books were published successfully,” Karp noted. “The DNA of the company is very much the same as it was 100 years ago.”

In January, S&S kicked off its centennial year with the release of the Simon & Schuster 100, a selection of 100 titles the company has published over its history—and as Karp suggests, what began with a windfall from four bestselling crossword puzzle books in 1924 quickly, and impressively, expanded. S&S’s first full list in 1924 would feature a biography of Joseph Pulitzer (a hero of Schuster’s), a poetry book, and Harvey Landrum—the only novel S&S published that year despite getting 241 submissions. In the following years, S&S published such monumental titles as Dale Carnegie’s seminal self-help book How to Win Friends and Influence People and Margaret Mitchell’s epic Gone with the Wind. (In previous years, Scribner, which S&S would acquire in 1994, published F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and books by such heavyweights as Ernest Hemingway.)

In choosing a list of 100 books to showcase, Karp said the goal was to show “the cultural sweep” of S&S’s publishing program over the past 100 years. It was no small task for a program that has yielded 61 Pulitzer Prize winners, 18 National Book Award winners, 18 Newbery winners, and 15 Caldecott winners. The original motto of S&S was to publish books that are “commercial, successful, and culture defining,” Karp noted. “That is still our mission today.”

In addition to the stories provided by its authors, S&S has quite a story of its own to tell. While Richard Simon and Max Schuster were the main drivers in creating the company that still bears their name, a number of legendary publishing figures played important roles in making S&S a 100-year success story—and none more so than Leon Shimkin. Though he was just 17 at the time, Shimkin joined S&S in its first year as business manager and was charged with balancing S&S’s books. He soon became involved with virtually all the publisher’s major business decisions.

Shimkin was constantly on the lookout for ways to expand S&S. An early fan of Dale Carnegie, Shimkin convinced the motivational speaker to turn his lectures into How to Win Friends and Influence People, which S&S released in 1936 and which has now sold more than 18 million copies and counting.

Beyond spotting bestselling book ideas, Shimkin was also a publishing visionary. He worked with Robert Fair de Graff to launch America’s first paperback publisher, Pocket Books, in 1939. Among Pocket’s achievements was publishing the first “instant book” in American publishing history: Franklin Delano Roosevelt: A Memorial, which was released six days after the president’s death.

Shimkin’s role at S&S became more pronounced in 1956 when, after the death of owner Marshall Field III (who had bought S&S in 1944), a decision was made to place S&S ownership with a nonprofit. Shimkin strongly disagreed with that decision and teamed up with Simon and Schuster to buy the house back—with Simon and Schuster acquiring S&S, and Shimkin and James M. Jacobson buying Pocket for $5 million.

Upon Simon’s death in 1960, Shimkin and Schuster became partners again, and in 1968, Shimkin became the sole owner of the company after he acquired Schuster’s stake and reunited Pocket with the flagship business.

When Schuster died two years later, Shimkin leaned heavily on a group of young executives who had been playing increasingly important roles at S&S, including Michael Korda and Dick Snyder. Before he became known as the architect who built S&S into a $2 billion publisher, Snyder brought aboard some of the editors and publishers who would make major contributions to the company—among them Joni Evans, Phyllis Grann, and Nan Talese. He also acquired the rights to what became Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s All the President’s Men, edited by Alice Mayhew. Woodward remains an S&S author to this day.

In 1975, Shimkin retired and sold the company to Gulf + Western (which in 1989 would become Paramount Communications), kicking off S&S’s corporate era—and a multibillion-dollar acquisition spree led by Snyder that peaked with the 1994 purchase of Macmillan Publishing. Later that same year, Paramount sold S&S to Viacom, and an immediate clash between Snyder and the new owners led to Snyder being dismissed, in what remains one of the most famous firings in modern publishing history.

Just four years later, S&S ownership reversed course on expansion, deciding to again focus on the trade publishing business. The sell off of its education, international, business, professional, and reference groups was overseen by S&S CEO Jonathan Newcomb. Newcomb left the company in 2002 and Jack Romanos was promoted to CEO, and began fashioning S&S into the trade house it is today. In 2008, Romanos made a historic move, tapping Carolyn Reidy as CEO, making her the first woman to run the company.

During her tenure, Reidy guided S&S through a fraught period of digital upheaval impacting the book business, as well as the Great Recession and more ownership changes. In May 2020, Reidy was managing the news that S&S would once again be up for sale, as well as the company’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak, when she suffered a heart attack and died. Karp was appointed to take over.

At a time when everyone was waiting to see who the new owner of S&S would be, Karp led the trade publisher to two years of record financial results and through a period of great uncertainty as Big Five rival Penguin Random House attempted to acquire it. That deal that was stopped in October 2022 when a federal judge blocked the $2.1 billion purchase on antitrust grounds.

In his foreword to Simon & Schuster: A Century of Publishing, which the company is publishing to mark its centennial, Karp wrote that S&S has changed ownership seven times over the years. And at the London Book Fair last month, he noted that since its acquisition by private equity firm KKR last August the publisher is back to where it started 100 years ago—as an independent trade publisher. Though another ownership change is almost certain within the next decade—such is private equity—KKR, Karp said, has ushered in a period of stability. “This is first time in a very long time we feel empowered to invest in the business,” he told PW. “We have a clear objective to grow bigger and better, and we are relishing the opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Karp has also been busy overseeing preparation for the publisher’s centennial, which will include a gala—Author! Author! A Centennial Celebration—which will be held at New York City’s Town Hall auditorium on April 8 and will feature appearances by more than 30 S&S authors. The event is open to the public, with a portion of ticket sales going to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation.

It’s a task Karp also appears to be relishing. “Now seems like the appropriate time to celebrate,” he said.

Simon & Schuster Chronology

  • 1924: Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster launch Simon & Schuster.
  • 1939: Simon, Schuster, Leon Shimkin, and Robert Fair de Graff start Pocket Books
  • 1944: S&S and Pocket sold to Marshall Field III.
  • 1957: Marshall Field III dies, and Simon, Schuster, and Shimkin buy back S&S. Shimkin and James M. Jacobson buy back Pocket.
  • 1961: Pocket Books goes public.
  • 1966: Simkin acquires retiring Schuster’s shares in the company and merges S&S and Pocket, renaming the company Simon & Schuster Inc.
  • 1975: Shimkin sells S&S to Gulf+Western and retires.
  • 1984: Simon & Schuster begins period of expansion through acquisition.
  • 1989 Gulf+Western restructures and becomes Paramount
  • Communications.
  • 1994: S&S acquires Macmillan Publishing Company.
  • 1994: Paramount Communications is acquired by Viacom.
  • 1998: S&S’s Education, International, Business, Professional, and Reference groups are sold to Pearson
  • 2002 S&S acquires Distican, its distribution outlet in Canada, which is renamed Simon & Schuster Canada.
  • 2002: S&S is integrated into Paramount motion pictures and television studios as part of the Viacom Entertainment Group.
  • 2005: S&S acquires Strebor Books, a publisher of popular fiction by Black writers
  • 2006: S&S becomes part of the CBS, a result of the separation of Viacom into two publicly traded companies.
  • 2006:S&S acquires religious publisher Howard Publishing
  • 2016: S&S acquires Adams Media from F+W Publishing
  • 2018: With the merger of Viacom and CBS, S&S becomes part of Viacom/CBS (subsequently rebranded as Paramount Global).
  • 2020: ViacomCBS agrees to sell S&S to Penguin Random House.
  • 2022: U.S. District Court judge Florence Pan rejects the merger of PRH and S&S on antitrust grounds.
  • 2023: Paramount Global reaches an agreement to sell S&S to investment company KKR. The purchase is finalized on October 23.

This article has been updated for clarity and with further information.