Report: Becky Saletan, Publisher of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Struggling Trade Division, Resigns

saletan120208 Report: Becky Saletan, Publisher of Houghton Mifflin Harcourts Struggling Trade Division, ResignsThe Associated Press’ Hillel Italie is reporting that Rebecca Saletan, who became publisher of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt when the company’s component parts were merged by the Irish multimedia firm in January, has resigned from her position and will serve out her last day on December 10th. Ms. Saletan’s departure will come two weeks after Publishers Weekly reported that the editors who report to her had been told to stop acquiring new books because there was not enough room for them in the budget.

Ms. Saletan’s resignation is sure to encourage rumors that the C.E.O. of HMH’s parent company, a man named Barry O’Callaghan whose core business in K-12 textbooks is not generating enough money to offset his massive debt, will sell the trade division and its illustrious backlist.

In an interview this morning, Al Greco of Fordham’s Graduate School of Business said he would not be shocked if Mr. O’Callaghan would order the sale of the trade division—which accounts for a relatively tiny part of his revenue stream—despite the fact that HMH C.E.O. Tony Lucki has been reluctant to do so since the merger took place. "I thought he should have sold it 13 months ago," Mr. Greco said. "If they announce today that they wanted to sell Houghton Harcourt, you’d have half a dozen companies at least very willing to look at that. When you look at those two companies combined, their backlist is very impressive—a very good juvenile backlist and a very good adult backlist."

While Mr. Lucki has signaled a passion for trade publishing and an unwillingness to abandon it, Mr. Greco said, the decision to sell "could well be made in Ireland."

Janet Silver, who had been publisher of Houghton Mifflin before the merger with Harcourt and who was passed over for the top job at HMH in favor of Ms. Saletan, also recently lost her job when her editorship at Nan Talese’s imprint at Doubleday was eliminated as part of division-wide budget cuts.