Stephen Rubin, 81, former president and publisher at Doubleday for 15 years, died on October 13 in a Manhattan hospital following “a brief and sudden illness,” according to his nephew. Rubin joined Bantam Books as executive editor in 1984, and went on to preside over Doubleday as president and publisher for 15 years, overseeing the publication of John Grisham and Dan Brown. He left Random House in 2009 and shortly thereafter joined Macmillan, where he led and reSuscitated Henry Holt, overseeing the publication of Bill O’Reilly’s “Killing” series and Michael Wolff’s FIRE AND FURY. Most recently, he was a consulting publisher at Simon & Schuster.
The AP writes: “Book publishing is hard to imagine without the raspy-voiced Rubin, a powerful and colorful presence for decades with his tortoiseshell glasses, stylish suits and wide range of friends and colleagues, from Jacqueline Kennedy to Beverly Sills. He hosted memorable parties at his spacious West Side apartment and was a prime source of gossip and alternately profane and loving assessments of friends, colleagues and the greater world.”
Doubleday evp, publisher & editor-in-chief Bill Thomas said in a memo, “I had the privilege and pleasure of working with Steve for thirteen years. It struck me that it made perfect sense he began his career a journalist covering opera, an art form he loved. He approached publishing like an impresario, bringing together all the players on-stage and off, cajoling, encouraging, and nudging to make sure that when the curtain rose the stars — the authors he published — shone brightly in the spotlight. Steve approached his job with brio and style, and a sense of joy. He had fun, and working for him was fun. And like a great opera singer, he was oversized, brash, and dramatic, sartorially resplendent, and given to big gestures. He was, in a word, ‘grand.’”
John Grisham says, “Steve Rubin was a great publisher. He loved books, especially those on the bestseller lists, and he knew how to get them there. He was a writer’s dream – loyal, generous, and never shy with his opinions. He was seldom wrong, but never in doubt.”
Dan Brown writes, “Steve’s infectious enthusiasm for my work was every author’s dream. A world class oenophile, Steve used to send me cases of lavish Italian wines—a secret plot, he joked, to saddle me with a refined palate so I could never afford to stop writing. I am eternally grateful for his belief, his encouragement, and, above all, his friendship.”
His last employer, S&S ceo Jonathan Karp, wrote to PL: “Steve was a great colleague, collaborator, and friend. His advice was sensible and smart, usually delivered with brio and wit. He had extraordinary publishing instincts. He was also as entertaining a storyteller as many of the authors he published so well. Once, after a long phone conversation that moved swiftly from one amusing anecdote to another, Steve finally got down to business and said he had an author for us. I asked him who it was and he said, ‘The Pope,’ as in Pope Francis. That was Steve. He knew the business, but first he lived his life, melodiously.”
Rubin told his own story in the book WORDS AND MUSIC, published in January, where he wrote: “I have spared no one, including myself,” while maintaining, and demonstrating, his belief in people and enduring friendships over corporate loyalties: “I have always said corporations do dumb things.” Of his long time at Random House and related companies, Rubin noted: “Despite my utter dissatisfaction with being Publisher at Large, all my varied jobs before then were marvelously exciting, diverse, and extremely fulfilling. Bantam was a romp, a great place to learn the business with hugely experienced and talented colleagues, all of whom were more than willing to share their wisdom. Doubleday was hugely challenging, but thanks to savvy colleagues like Bill Barry and David Gernert, the business was turned around for sure, and I had fabulous authors to publish.
“Doubleday is such a great institution in publishing lore. It is thrilling for me to have played a small, but consequential role in its more than 100-year-old history. What I accomplished at Doubleday surely gave me the security to take on my next challenge.” He concluded his book with this: “As I look back, it amazes me how many extraordinary opportunities seem to have fallen into my lap. I know I was pushy, cheeky, even audacious at times, but there was never a master plan, a stratagem. Just optimism.”
Rubin is survived by nieces Sara Elan Rotter and Yael Rotter, and nephews David Rotter and Andrew Rotter. Arrangements for a service in his honor are said to be in the works.
Memoriam contributions are welcomed to the Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism at the San Francisco Conservatory.