The established but embattled Mobil Travel Guides has pulled off the publishing highway—ending a partnership, scaling back its program and laying off employees in a bid to restructure.
Exxon Mobil Travel Guides has decided not to renew its three-year contract with the management firm Dustin/ Massagli, resulting in the layoff of about 30 employees and the cutting back of a list that had reached nearly three dozen new titles per year.
Exxon Mobil Travel Guides, which was spun off three years ago as a separate company and was jointly owned by the energy conglomerate, Publications International, Hilton, Marriott, CNL Hotels and Dustin/Massagli, is expected to soon be owned jointly only by Publications International and Exxon Mobil. (Before Dustin/ Massagli came in, it was owned outright by Exxon Mobil, with Publications International operating a license.)
The company will be run by Ken Cohen, a v-p of public affairs for Exxon Mobil, who said he expected the restructuring period to last about 60 days, at which point the company will decide on the number of titles it will publish. He said he does expect the company to continue with its flagship Mobil Travel Guide and a licensed guide to NASCAR racetracks, as well as selected other titles. "We're going to stroke our chins and take a look at the product offerings," Cohen said. "I'd be hard-pressed to say we're going to continue with the same number." He said it was unclear how many dedicated staff would work on the guides at Publications International.
Despite the termination of a fixed-period contract, one laid-off employee said the end came as a surprise: "It was very abrupt. We walked in on Monday [two weeks ago] and the computers were gone."
At the time of the spinoff, expansion was given strong support by Exxon Mobil. Dustin/ Massagli brought in Penguin veteran Kevin Bristow as director of publications and beefed up the list from about 10 books per year to more than 30. But the 47-year-old brand continued to struggle, while the company was plagued by obstacles in marketing strategy and distribution.