Penguin Random House has made their much anticipated announcement about new leadership for Knopf, following the death of Sonny Mehta and the departure late last year of other longtime Knopf executives. Former Crown Publishing Group president and publisher Maya Mavjee will return to PRH on March 2 as president & publisher of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. And it is Reagan Arthur who has been named Mehta’s selected successor, becoming evp, publisher, Knopf, Pantheon and Schocken on February 11.
Mavjee will report to PRH USA ceo Madeline McIntosh and joins the PRH US board. She has been president, publishing strategy at Macmillan for the past year. McIntosh writes, “She has forged and maintained impeccable and strong relationships with authors, agents and publishers here and abroad, and has shown a natural ability to support the creative process and the needs of the business at the same time. These qualities have made her beloved as a leader, a colleague and a publisher, and I believe make her ideally suited for this role.”
As for the selection of Arthur, McIntosh writes to staff that “over the past six months, in our semi-regular ‘meetings’ (a.k.a., drinks-across-the-street), Sonny and I began to talk in earnest about the future. As you know, he made some changes and key appointments in the group late last year, but there was still the question of publishing leadership for Knopf itself. I’m incredibly happy to report that as his last gift to us, Sonny identified Reagan Arthur as his first choice for this role, and they were able to meet and talk about the opportunity in the fall.”
McIntosh adds, “I was so looking forward to having Sonny introduce her to you, but I know you’ll help me provide her with the very warmest welcome in his place.” Arthur has been svp, publisher at Little, Brown since 2013. McIntosh adds, “The range and breadth of Reagan’s editorial expertise and her leadership qualities are core to what make her the ideal choice for this role. Her writers think the world of her, as do her colleagues. She has a proven track record and a reputation that means her recommendations are trusted by sales reps and booksellers alike. I have envied from afar her accomplishments as a publisher while treasuring her books as a reader and enjoying getting to know her over the years as a person.”
Arthur tells us that the approach from Mehta “was a surprise, I did not see it coming.” She notes, “He spoke about his early days when he took the job, and what people thought. He said it was a giant leap that he took, and he encouraged me to think about taking the same one.” He “talked about the job and why he thought I might be right for it…. What helped me see it for myself was the way he talked about the balance of the Knopf list between literary and commercial, and always focusing on the authors, the writing and the best possible publishing. I was also struck by his deep love of the editorial team. We spent the bulk of our conversation talking about the editors and how much he appreciated all of them.” As for her agenda for the imprint, “My goal first and foremost is to get to know the amazing editors, the books that we’re publishing in the weeks and months ahead, and put a strong plan in place for the future about the kinds of books we want to publishing and the ways we want to do it.”
Separately, she tells the NYT, “I love Little, Brown. I wasn’t hankering for something else. It’s been a very emotional time for me to think about leaving.” But she looks forward to “a different set of opportunities and challenges.” She also said looking forward, “I’m less interested in putting my own personal stamp on anything than in continuing what’s already a great publishing tradition.”
Reporting to Arthur are the Knopf, Pantheon and Schocken editorial teams, as well as evp, deputy publisher Paul Bogaards. Jordan Pavlin is being promoted to svp, editorial director for Knopf, and reports to Arthur, as will all editors.
McIntosh writes, “Reagan, Jordan and Paul are a formidable leadership team, and as a reader and a colleague, I’m so very excited for the ways they will build on the Knopf commitment to new voices, to diverse voices, to works in translation, to books literary and commercial–all while adhering to the highest standards in all aspects of the publishing process, to keeping authors at the center of the imprint culture, and to nurturing in-house talent.”
Mavjee tells us, “I’m excited to be returning to PRH in what is a dream post for someone who has long admired the books and breadth of publishing being done at the Knopf Doubleday Group. I know some of the people there and have read many of the authors on their lists. It’s a remarkable amalgam of publishing talent.” As for her goals and agenda in the new position, “The first is to come to know the players and gain an understanding of the culture. I love that the group has always been editorially driven and author centric. Everyone in the industry admired the kind of publishing Sonny did – literary and commercial and always with impeccable attention to detail – so seeing how I can help colleagues do more of that. My aim is to be a resource, and to support the group’s extraordinary publishing legacy. Personally, I was honored to know Sonny as a fellow publishing colleague and friend, and I greatly benefited from his incredible kindness and generosity to me throughout my career.”
With the new appointments, longtime Knopf Doubleday Group President Tony Chirico will leave the group and report to McIntosh “in a corporate capacity on an interim basis. He will be working with Maya to transfer his deep knowledge and expertise based on his three decades working with these lists, and he will be working with me on initiatives related to the company as a whole.”
Arthur reports to Mavjee, as will Bill Thomas at Doubleday and Suzanne Herz at Vintage Anchor. At Little, Brown, “the search for a new publisher begins immediately,” ceo Michael Pietsch wrote to HBG staff. “Reagan’s work ethic is exceptional and her team at LB and colleagues throughout HBG know what an empathetic, inspiring leader she is. I have loved working with her mightily. We will all miss her enormously. Her last day at HBG will be January 31.