With sales down 16% and profits off 75% at the midpoint of its fiscal year, HarperCollins took dramatic steps last week to, according to CEO Brian Murray, “align our cost basis with expected revenues.” The restructuring eliminated the positions of several high-priced executives—most notably Steve Ross, Lisa Gallagher and Brenda Bowen—but also cut jobs at lower levels in all departments. A company spokesperson wouldn't comment on reports that about 60 positions in all were eliminated.
The most significant action was to integrate the Collins division into the general books group, a move that marks the end of an experiment begun by former CEO Jane Friedman to brand the Collins name—highly regarded in the U.K.—in the U.S. The attempt to build up Collins began with the hiring of Joe Tessitore, who emphasized reference product, in late 2004, and accelerated when Steve Ross was hired away from Crown in June 2007 to broaden Collins's reach, particularly in business.
One of Ross's first actions was to sign Donald Trump in a reported seven-figure deal for Think Big and Kick Ass—in Business and in Life. The title, released in October 2007, has sold 87,000 copies through the outlets tracked by Nielsen BookScan. Ross also gave the Collins imprints a complete makeover and had an official launch party for the new look last fall, all aimed at giving the division a higher profile to both the industry and consumers. But as part of the retrenchment, the Collins brand in the future will be limited to Collins Design and Collins Reference. Titles that had been released under Collins Business will now be released as Harper Business (Ross had rebranded Harper Business titles as Collins Business), while Harper Living titles will be released as Morrow titles. Ross had hoped to do as many as 400 titles in fiscal 2009 at Collins, but it is unclear how much the program will be scaled back.
Another imprint that took a big hit was Rayo, HC's Spanish-language unit started in 2000 and expanded in 2004. Three positions were eliminated in the small group, including those of Rene Alegria and Cecilia Molinari, who were publisher and managing editor, respectively. HC said editor Rakesh Satyal will now oversee Rayo, although the company acknowledged Rayo will likely reduce its title output in the future.
In the children's group, in addition to closing the startup Brenda Bowen Press, the division will relocate from offices on Sixth Avenue, which has been home to the group since HC bought Morrow, to HC's East 53rd Street headquarters.