Bloomsbury founder splits top jobs

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The founder of Bloomsbury is to split his dual chairman and chief executive role to focus on strategy as the publisher's phenomenally successful Harry Potter series comes to an end.

Nigel Newton, who signed Potter author J K Rowling on the recommendation of his eight-year-old daughter, has held the joint position since setting up the company in 1986.

Jeremy Wilson, the vice chairman of business banking at Barclays, will become the new non-executive chairman and will spend 50 days a year at Bloomsbury, freeing Mr Newton to focus on development and strategy. Mr Wilson, who will retain his position at Barclays, will begin on 27 September.

Concerns have grown in the City over the future of Bloomsbury, which published the seventh and final instalment of the boy wizard's story, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, this summer.

Mr Newton said he had considered separating the roles for some time. "I see this as useful in achieving Bloomsbury's ambitions in the years ahead, allowing me to concentrate on the development and execution of Bloomsbury's strategy during a period when we foresee significant change in the publishing industry," he said.

Mr Wilson, who has worked at Barclays since 1972, has been a member of the Bloomsbury board since November 2005. He said Bloomsbury was "a remarkably successful company with a formidable publishing list, a wealth of talented individuals at all levels of the company, with one of the most widely recognised brands in worldwide publishing". "Bloomsbury is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities now arising in the publishing sector," he added.

In June, the company said it was focusing on expanding its digital content, pioneering web-based initiatives, making further acquisitions and building new author relationships and content. The publisher has scored with a clutch of bestsellers worldwide so far this year, among them A Thousand Splendid Suns, by the Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini, William Boyd's Restless, set during the Second World War, and Al Gore's The Assault on Reason. Next year, the publisher hopes to triumph with titles from Joanna Trollope and Michael Ondaatje, the author of The English Patient.

Mr Newton is also involved in publishing three databases, including a dictionary of world English called Microsoft Encarta.