Neil Alexander, president and publisher of the United Methodist Publishing House for the past 17 years, has announced his retirement in spring 2016. The house has begun a two-year search process for a new publisher to be appointed in 2015, overlapping with the end of Alexander’s tenure. His departure will coincide with the United Methodist Church’s General Conference around April 2016.
UMPH, the self-supporting publishing agency of the United Methodist denomination—with some 12 million members worldwide, 7.5 million in the U.S. and Canada--includes its Cokesbury retail division and Abingdon Press, which publishes church materials, Bibles, and scholarly and general trade books. At its October 30 board meeting, UMPH reported results $2.0 million over budget for the fiscal year and sales growth of 14 percent for its Cokesbury.com retail division. Net revenue was $210,000 "in a year of major retooling," according to a statement.
Earlier this year, UMPH shuttered its remaining 38 full-line and 19 seminary-based Cokesbury retail stores, shifting sales online, to its call center, and to church resource fairs and conferences. (In the previous five years, 21 stores had been closed amid declining sales.) The move led to layoffs of 185 full-time and 100 part-time employees.
There are 400 employees at its Nashville headquarters, which sits on about 7.5 acres of prime downtown real estate, now under contract to a developer planning a mixed-use project. When the sale is completed, UMPH will move its operations to a location in the Nashville area that will be announced.