Thursday was “definitely a very tough day,” Don Weisberg told PW yesterday evening following the announcement that Macmillan CEO John Sargent will leave the company at the end of the year. Weisberg, currently president of Macmillan US Trade, will take over responsibility for all Macmillan global trade operations, with the exception of Germany, on January 1. Holtzbrinck announced yesterday that Sargent is leaving the company over disagreements about the future of Macmillan.
Weisberg said the discussions with stunned Macmillan employees yesterday centered around the message that it is okay to acknowledge that Macmillan is losing “someone who has meant a lot to the company and meant a lot to many individuals, myself included.” Weisberg gave no indication of what disagreement Sargent had with Macmillan parent company Holtzbrinck that precipitated his departure. “What’s most important to John is the success Macmillan has had,” Weisberg said. “He is very proud of the people here and all they have achieved.”
Weisberg said that, contrary to what many people thought would happen to publishers when the pandemic hit this spring, Macmillan is having “a really good year,” even considering the layoffs and hiring freeze implemented at the company this spring. The hiring freeze has since been lifted and salary cuts restored and employees impacted by the salary reductions have since been repaid the full reduction amount.
Weisberg said Macmillan has grown steadily over the last four years, grabbing market share through organic growth rather than through acquisitions and he didn’t think that formula will change. “Macmillan is a steady company,” he said.
Weisberg said that the company is in a good position for the fall and holiday shopping season, pointing to the success of Louise Penny’s recent bestseller, All the Devils Are Here, adding that Macmillan has a "solid" upcoming list. He remains confident about the future. “I am excited about our prospects for 2021,” he said. “I think we will do better than 2020, and 2020 has been a good year.”
With Weisberg poised to expand his responsibilities beyond the U.S., he said that, at some point, he will likely look for someone to take over some of his current duties. For the present, Weisberg said, he is taking things one day at a time. “John and I did talk about our future together at Macmillan and while the talk of succession came up, I was surprised” about Thursday’s announcement, he said.
This story has been updated.