Family teams are not unusual in book publishing—think of the editorial pairing of Blanche and Alfred Knopf—but what's less common is the trigenerational leadership that unites grandfather (and chairman emeritus) Walter Zacharius, 86; son Steven, 54 (president and CEO); and newest executive, grandson Adam, 26, in a concurrent management at Kensington Publishing. Adam Zacharius began working for the company a year ago in charge of a division that his grandfather had long envisioned—Kensington Media.
“We started the media division in Los Angeles because this is where entertainment trends start,” says Adam, who is Kensington's manager of West Coast operations and head of development for Kensington Media. “Also, the book and film agents here are great. They've really welcomed us and see Kensington Media as a way of filling the niche market in film for romance, fratire and African-American interests.”
With partner Roy Campanella II, president of production for the media division, Adam is working to bring the considerable literary resources of Kensington (6,000 backlist titles) to the entertainment media marketplace in Los Angeles. Campanella, son of the Hall of Fame Brooklyn Dodger catcher, is an award-winning director, producer and writer for TV and films. “Publishing is at the point where creating new streams of revenue is essential, and by selling film and TV rights and producing low-budget films, Kensington is in a unique position to make this happen,” Adam says.
Adam moved to Beverly Hills after graduating from NYU's Stern Business School in 2004. Following Walter's plan to groom his grandson for Kensington's new division, Adam worked for agent Joel Gotler for a year to learn about book-to-film negotiations. Following that, he assisted filmmaker Dan Halsted (Made in America; Garden State) for two years.
As a boy, Adam had free access to the Kensington headquarters in New York. “I was a little rug rat running around the office, getting to know everyone on the staff and immersing myself in the world of book publishing,” he notes. “When I was old enough, I worked at Kensington during the summers. I interned in finance, editorial, marketing, you name it.”
The first book-to-film project for Adam will be a Mary Monroe title, The Company We Keep. Kensington will publish it next March, and the film version will follow in late fall 2009. Campanella wrote the screenplay, which served as the basis for Monroe's book. “She has a tremendous following in the African-American book market,” says Adam. Kensington will initially draw on its other black novelists to launch the film unit, possibly with books by Carl Weber and Mary B. Morrison. “We have other bestselling authors who are also a perfect fit for this—Joanna Fluke, Fern Michaels and Lisa Jackson are all brand names, and bring the mystery and romance genre to the forefront of Kensington Media,” Adam says. He is hopeful that fans of the different Kensington authors will remain interested in projects as they travel from book to screen. To help nourish that interest, Kensington's marketing department is working on cross-promotion plans for The Company We Keep.
Although Kensington Media's first project is still about a year away, Adam is excited about the future. “Working in New York or in L.A., the business ethic is very similar. The intensity of New York book publishing isn't far from what goes on here in the film industry,” he says. Gazing out at his adopted city from his rooftop, he jokes, “The easiest way to be in the family business is to be 3,000 miles away!” That's debatable. When his cellphone rings, it's his father, Steven, on the line.