It’s official: Jane Friedman has resigned as CEO of HarperCollins, and her number two, 41-year-old Brian Murray, is taking over "effective immediately."
The news came as a shock to Ms. Friedman’s colleagues tonight, though a poor first quarter performance reported in November did inspire some rumblings among publishing insiders that a change in leadership was conceivable. As we noted earlier, at least two of the publishing division heads at HarperCollins were caught by surprise tonight, and indicated that they were given no advance warning of the change. Earlier tonight, when rumors of Ms. Friedman’s departure surfaced on Gawker, one high-ranking person at HarperCollins said it was someone’s idea of a joke, while another said, simply, "stunned here."
Indeed, it would have been to tough to predict on Saturday night that this was in the cards, when Ms. Friedman, a mother of four in her early 60s, gleefully played host to a star-studded crowd at a HarperCollins party in Los Angeles on the 20th Century Fox lot. During the party, as we’ve reported, Ms. Friedman said she loved being CEO of HarperCollins.
At around 11:30 tonight, Ms. Friedman issued a statement through her spokeswoman in which she does not give any hints about why this is happening now or what she will be doing next, but does indicate that she is leaving on her own accord. "My 10 years at HarperCollins have been far and away the most rewarding of my career and so it was not easy to make the decision to step down," she is quoted as saying in a statement.
In a separate statement, Ms. Friedman’s successor Brian Murray– who has been her number two since 2004– said he is "thrilled" to take on his new role.
News Corp chair Rupert Murdoch, to whom Ms. Friedman reported, is quoted as saying:
Below, the statements from HarperCollins in their entirety:
JANE FRIEDMAN RESIGNS AS PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS WORLDWIDE
New York, New York, June 4, 2008 – Jane Friedman, President and Chief Executive Officer of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, today announced she is stepping down after 10 years at the helm of one of the world’s largest English-language publishers.
"My 10 years at HarperCollins have been far and away the most rewarding of my career and so it was not easy to make the decision to step down," commented Ms. Friedman. "It has been a great privilege to develop and lead the best and brightest team in the world of publishing as we created and implemented innovative programs which placed HarperCollins at the forefront of the 21st Century publishing world. We have expanded opportunities for our authors to connect with our readers across many different mediums, while also encouraging a new generation to get excited about reading.
"During the past decade, we have enjoyed tremendous success while expanding our brand on-line and around the world. Our accomplishments include: more than doubling the company’s profits over the past ten years; launching the Publishing+ program that has made HarperCollins an industry leader in the world of digital publishing; our authors whose excellence was recently recognized with the awarding of two Pulitzer Prizes and the Nobel Prize for Literature in recent months; a company record 25 books on the New York Times best-seller list just last week; and expansion to new markets around the world including India and China.
"I am extremely pleased to be succeeded by Brian Murray, an incredibly talented individual and executive, and a true lover of books, who is the perfect person to lead our team to continued success in the future. I wish Brian and the entire team at HarperCollins the best of luck."
"Jane has been a terrific leader who succeeded in attracting some of the world’s most brilliant authors while, at the same time, delivering record breaking profits," Said Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation. "We are enormously grateful for her contributions over the past 10 years and understand her desire to seek new challenges at this point in her career. I have enjoyed working with her immensely and will miss her. We wish her much success."
Ms. Friedman joined HarperCollins in November 1997, overseeing HarperCollins worldwide book publishing including operations in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand and India. Under her leadership, the company achieved record revenues as well as countless publishing honors.
Previously, she was Executive Vice President of Random House, Inc., Executive Vice President of the Knopf Publishing Group, Publisher of Vintage Books and Founder and President of Random House Audio Publishing.
Ms. Friedman is Vice-Chair of the Entertainment, Media and Communications Division of the UJA. She serves on the board of the Association of American Publishers, Literacy Partners, Yale University Press, and Poets & Writers, Inc. She is also a member of the American Advisory Committee of the Jerusalem International Book Fair, the Advisory Committee to the MFA program in creative writing at The New School and The Committee of 200.
BRIAN MURRAY NAMED PRESIDENT AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER OF HARPERCOLLINS PUBLISHERS WORLDWIDE
New York, New York, June 4, 2008 – Brian Murray has been promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer of HarperCollins Publishers Worldwide, following the resignation today of Jane Friedman. Mr. Murray, 41, has been the company’s President since July 2007. His appointment is effective immediately.
As President of HarperCollins Worldwide, Mr. Murray led the development of worldwide growth initiatives including digital strategy and investment. He also had direct responsibility for the HarperCollins General Books Group in the U.S. which includes HarperCollins, William Morrow and Collins publishing divisions, as well as oversight of a variety of international operations.
"HarperCollins is an important business for News Corporation and, in his 11-year tenure, Brian has demonstrated an impressive track record of growing publishing companies," commented Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and Chief Executive of News Corporation. "He is ideally suited to work with his colleagues at News Corporation and HarperCollins to achieve even greater success."
"I am thrilled to be taking on this new role," said Mr. Murray. "I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to invest in and grow our publishing businesses around the world at a time when digital technologies are creating new opportunities to bring authors and readers together."
Mr. Murray joined HarperCollins in 1997 and held several positions in the General Books Group until 2001, when he was named Chief Executive Officer of HarperCollins Australia/New Zealand, where he significantly increased both market share and financial performance. In 2004, he returned to HarperCollins in the U.S. as Group President and was promoted to President of HarperCollins Worldwide in July 2007. Mr. Murray has led the company’s digital efforts which include the development of HarperCollins digital warehouse, direct to consu
mer marketing initiatives and the digitization of HarperCollins’ backlist. He has also established the company’s first office in Beijing and is responsible for its business development in China.