Approaching its 40th anniversary in the U.S. in 2004, Rizzoli USA is looking to refocus on its core publishing business after essentially withdrawing from the U.S. book retailing market. The Milan-based illustrated book publisher has brought in new senior management, announced plans to launch a new line of promotional books and begun a variety of efforts to market and promote its titles more effectively.

Marco Ausenda, who joined Rizzoli in July 2002 as its new President and CEO, said the current illustrated book market is "difficult but not doomed." He estimated that revenue for Rizzoli USA will be about $25 million in 2003, which would be a 10% increase over last year. "We offer quality books," said Ausenda, "and quality publishing will survive when the market is difficult." Rizzoli USA publishes about 110 books a year through its Rizzoli and Universe imprints, and its titles are distributed by St. Martin's Press. The house also publishes the City & Company line of New York City guides. It has a copublishing agreement with MTV called Overground Books and publishes a line of calendars distributed by Andrews & McMeel. Rizzoli also distributes English-language titles from such European art book publishers as Skira and Flammarion, both owned by RCS Libri, Rizzoli's parent company.

Ausenda has brought in two new senior executives: former Abrams COO Alan Rutsky has been named Rizzoli's new v-p of finance and administration, and Jennifer Pierson has been named VP of Rizzoli USA sales and marketing.

Rizzoli began withdrawing from the bookstore business in 2001 and has closed about a dozen stores, while maintaining its flagship store in Manhattan. Ausenda told PW that "some of the stores were profitable, others were not. The U.S. retail market is too big and too complicated to control from across the Atlantic. Publishing, our core market, is leaner and easier to concentrate on."

Although noting a "slow first quarter," Ausenda does not expect war anxiety to affect Rizzoli results. "We sell two-thirds of our books in the fall. Certainly we hope the war will over by Christmas," he said. Current bestsellers include Oriana Fallaci's post 9/11 polemic, The Rage and the Pride, which sold more than a million copies in Europe and more than 100,000 copies in the U.S. New York New York, a massive $275 picture book with six-foot gatefold pages, has sold more than 2,500 copies. Look for a new picture book, These United States, priced at $175, to be released this year.

Ausenda said Rizzoli will launch a "quality" promotional book line this year with about 25 titles. The house is redesigning its catalogue to better identify its many series titles, and Rizzoli is also reprinting the eight City & Company New York City guidebooks, with plans to publish about four new titles a year in the series.

"The second half of the year should be good for books," said Ausenda. "With the war and the economy, people are not traveling. We expect them to be reading books."