The other stateside name on people’s lips is a numbers man named Ed Volini, who answered to Mr. Pfuhl as chief administrative officer of RH Worldwide back in 2001, and has since been on a remarkable power grab. In 2002, he was named CFO, and in 2003, Mr. Olson made him deputy chairman. Since then, he has aggressively pursued and taken on additional duties. “He’s a bottom-line person,” said one knowledgeable publisher from another house, “but there’s no way that Ed could take that position because he doesn’t know a thing about books.”
Which means, of course, that those Brits might be right, and that Ms. Rebuck, a feminist icon in the U.K. who has held her current job for a startling 17 years, will soon descend upon Random House like Mary Poppins upon 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Ms. Rebuck has for years been rumored to be eyeing Mr. Olson’s chair, and she is expected to accept the position if an offer is extended to her.
Regardless of whom Bertelsmann CEO Hartmut Ostrowski and his 15-person supervisory board appoint to replace Mr. Olson, it is all but certain that Random House will undergo some radical changes. Several well-placed publishing vets said they expect a major structural reorganization there, one that could centralize control of the house’s many divisions and leave the publishers who run them with considerably less autonomy than they have had historically.
Or, maybe not? Stuart Applebaum, Random House’s fearsome corporate spokesman, dismissed speculation about a post-Olson era on Monday as guesswork, and reaffirmed that Mr. Olson was going about his ordinary schedule. “It is a typical day,” he said.