Random House's announcement last week that it has hired Miramax Books senior acquisitions editor Susan Mercandetti could reflect changes at both houses.
The exit of Mercandetti, a former Nightline producer, Vanity Fair editor and the force behing books by Queen Noor and Tim Russert, is likely to be read with greater interest than usual in some quarters, as Miramax Books endures speculation about its future.
Last week, sources indicated that when Miramax founders Bob and Harvey Weinstein sever ties with Disney—an agreement is expected soon—it's unlikely that the imprint will be bought by the brothers outright, though they will possibly end up with rights to frontlist books they could use as the basis for a new startup. Under such an agreement, said sources, children's titles, backlist and books scheduled between now and the end of the fiscal year in September will end up at various places within Disney. The expectation is that the Weinsteins and MB's well regarded publisher, Jonathan Burnham, will eventually start a new line from the books scheduled for after September, with negotiations reportedly underway over which titles they would be.
Asked how rights to Miramax Books titles would be divided, Miramax corporate spokesperson Matthew Hiltzik said only, "There are ongoing amicable discussions, but nothing to report."
Agents around the business sounded nervous last week about the above scenario, especially for books scheduled for release in the spring and summer, despite the possibility that some Miramax Books employees would continue through September. "If we lose our primary contact for a book, our worry is real, regardless of how much hand-holding Hyperion or Disney does," one agent noted, adding that the departure of a high-profile editor added to their concerns.
Burnham declined to comment on the larger Miramax question, but did release a statement about Mercandetti's departure: "Susan Mercandetti is a brilliant and fabulously tenacious acquiring editor who contributed a great deal to the growth and strength of Miramax Books. I am sad to see her leave, but Random House is very lucky to have her."
Meanwhile, the news carried import for Random, too. The house, which has recently seen the departure of Lee Boudreaux and several other editors (see the editorial in last week's PW) said the hiring is "not a direct replacement" of any editor. But it does hint at a shift; Boudreaux is known primarily for fiction, and Mercandetti for nonfiction. Nonetheless, "there may be some [other] new additions" in the near future, said spokesperson Carol Schneider.