The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Random House's Bertelsmann overlords passed over internal candidates to succeed Peter Olson as head of the country's biggest trade book publisher, choosing instead an outsider to the world of book publishing: Markus Dohle, head of the company's printing-services division, Arvato. We speculated a few weeks ago that this could be a situation akin to Jack Donaghy's being named vice-president of East Coast Television and Microwave-Oven Programming for General Electric, and it sort of seems like we were right; Dohle has no prior experience in book publishing, and Arvato became financially successful during his tenure thanks to "plunging into far-ranging businesses such as repairing mobile telephones, storing pharmaceuticals and running call centers and billing systems." A colleague calls Dohle "entrepreneurial."
What does this mean for Random House? Hard to say.
Donaghy Dohle has already pegged educational publishing as an area in which the company can expand, but what's the book-publishing equivalent of auxiliary businesses like phone repair and call-center operation? Will Vintage editorial assistants be taught to repair Kindles? Will publicists be forced to write term-papers-for-hire? Can Sonny Mehta operate a forklift? It's a brave new world!