Australian-based Hardie Grant has bought Quadrille, the U.K. illustrated publisher run by Alison Cathie. BookBrunch reports that Cathie and her management team will remain in place.
Cathie - whose sister Kyle runs lifestyle publisher Kyle Books - set up Quadrille in 1994, having previously been the founder MD of Conran Octopus. Quadrille has a reputation for stylish and high-quality books, from authors including Antonio Carluccio, Tricia Guild, Titania Hardie, Simon Hopkinson, Cath Kidston, James Martin, Michel Roux, and Gordon Ramsay, whose transfer from football pitch to kitchen she oversaw.
Cathie and her management team will remain in place.
She said: "Hardie Grant have been Quadrille's distributor in Australia for many years, and are already close colleagues of the company, so we are delighted to have found a like-minded, independent partner to take the company forward in its illustrated books and stationery publishing and strengthen its presence in the digital arena."
Sandy Grant and Fiona Hardie set up Hardie Grant in Melbourne in 1997. Grant has run Heinemann, Octopus and Reed Australia, and is a former CEO of Reed Books UK. Hardie, who runs the company's magazines division, is a former book publisher and Business Development Director for Premier Magazines in the UK. The company has offices in Melbourne, Sydney, and London, where the MD is Stephen King.
Grant, who becomes Quadrille Chairman, said: "We have worked with Quadrille since we first started, we admire their creative publishing, and their amazing list of books and stationery, and we are very happy to make this acquisition in the UK and beyond."
Cathie launched her first list on 13 October 1995 - "a lucky day" - having left her distinct mark on Conran Octopus over the course of a decade. It was, she said, "enough of anyone's life" and, besides, she wanted to spend more time with her children, which she hoped would be easier if she ran the show. The move was made possible by proceeds from six years working with Paul Hamlyn, producing "good value" (but not bargain) books for which, in those halcyon days, first printings could be around 250,000.
However, she learned her trade at the packager George Rainbird, where agent Carole Blake also began her publishing career - indeed, the two women learned much from the late Edmund Fisher. A management trainee, she worked in every department and saw how they all worked, also spending three months selling books in Harrods: "You see just how many books a buyer has to look at and therefore how important it is to get your USPs as short and immediate as possible". Then came a golden opportunity: the chance to work with John Betjeman on A Pictorial History of Architecture, which had grown out of a series of Daily Telegraph articles and went on to become a staple of the John Murray catalogue. The author, Cathie's first, was "fabulous - eccentric, jokey, supportive".
After Hamlyn she joined Orbis. It was a partwork publisher but Cathie developed original titles and, crucially, established an own-brand business with Marks & Spencer, a ground-breaking moment.
Six years later she moved to Conran Octopus, a joint venture between design guru Terence Conran and her old friend Paul Hamlyn. By then she had a reputation as Britain's preeminent publisher of illustrated books and her brief was to create a list from scratch, her first. It launched in 1985 with Conran's own New House Book, which sold "rather a lot of copies". Cathie observed, "you can't avoid many flops in this sort of publishing."
There have been few flops and she has always believed that a good idea should not be strangled at birth by a negative reaction from an international publisher - an early example was Roy Strong's Creating Small Gardens, which some thought a folly, impossible sell in to the US. But she proved them wrong. And for those who thought such lavish titles were a hangover from the decade of Eighties excess, Cathie demonstrated that titles such as The Thrifty Decorator and Decorative Sewing for the Home worked well in harder times. It was at
"You have to find a gap in the market and create something different from what's already around."