Wherever Jane Friedman is right now, whatever plans she’s hatching, she must feel just a touch vindicated by what’s happening at HarperCollins, the publishing monster from which she was fired as CEO last June. The second-quarter numbers for Harper (whose fiscal year began in June — or right after Friedman was replaced by Brian Murray) are abysmal, and overall first-half stats no better: revenue down 25 percent for the quarter, earnings down 75 percent for the half.
Last week Harper offered its employees the option of early retirement (and though the deadline has passed, they won’t say how many have taken it). There were various reasons for this — currency fluctuations, a distributor’s bankruptcy, comparisons to a blockbuster-driven 2007, and, of course, piss-poor book sales overall. News Corp., which owns Harper, did even worse, taking an $8.4 billion write-down (none of it for Harper). But the big picture is clear. The company that looked smugly on a year ago while rival Random House was being derided as a bloated, money-burning beast now muddles through a depressing fiscal year while Random — for all its devastating layoffs — soldiers on with tighter operations and a redefined mission under perky new CEO Markus Dohle. (Though history will, of course, be his judge as well.) Even if it isn’t his fault, Brian Murray can’t go blaming Friedman for what’s happening under his watch anymore than Bush could lay 9/11 at Clinton’s feet. But maybe a more apt comparison is Alan Greenspan; Friedman’s exuberance, worshiped a decade ago, looks a little different now that things have turned at HarperCollins.
Another Bad Quarter at HarperCollins [Publishers Weekly]