Cover Stories: Penguin departure and birthday; Foyles' expansion
Friday 18 February 2005
The book trade has been shocked at the departure of Anthony Forbes Watson, chief executive of Penguin UK for eight years.
The book trade has been shocked at the departure of Anthony Forbes Watson, chief executive of Penguin UK for eight years. A frank statement from John Makinson, CEO of Penguin's global businesses, cited "genuine differences of view" and paid tribute to him for "building the most admired team in the industry". Strange, then, that Forbes Watson should go; even stranger, in some eyes, that Makinson - who joined parent company Pearson in 1996 as finance director - should also replace "Anthony with myself". Makinson, largely unknown to many in the wider industry, is not a publisher. There has also been a feeling that he should take the rap for Penguin's 2004 distribution disaster, resulting from the move to its new Rugby warehouse before full software testing. Forbes Watson and his team had to explain to authors why their books weren't in the shops. The decision was ultimately Pearson CEO Marjorie Scardino's, but many felt Makinson should have fallen on his sword. He has now set up a more responsive executive committee for Penguin, to replace the eight-member board. Insiders say this was Forbes Watson's idea.
* Penguin's aim now is to draw a line under the past year and get on with celebrating its 70th birthday. Among other plans are a set of 70 A-format paperbacks with extracts from the big bird's vast canon. "Pocket Penguins" will launch in May. There will also be Jeremy Lewis's warts-and-all biography of Penguin founder Allen Lane, and Phil Barnes's book on Penguin design to tie in with a V&A exhibition.
* Good news for Foyles: having seen December sales rise by 17.9 per cent on the previous Christmas, it has now been chosen to run the bookshop at London's Royal Festival Hall, in place of Books Etc. The shop will open in June, and will carry around 30,000 books plus music scores.
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