Atlantic Books Limited has begun the year by announcing "a significant financial and organizational restructuring" which sees the departure of editor-in-chief Ravi Mirchandani and the arrival of Peter Roche as Non-Executive Chairman. Allen & Unwin Australia becomes the majority shareholder.
The moves will "provide the company with firm foundations for the future". Atlantic's long-standing mystery backer, publishing's Madame von Meck, remains on board but is now "a significant minority shareholder," CEO and publisher Toby Mundy said. Morgan Entrekin of Grove Atlantic no longer has any financial involvement with the company, but Mundy and his colleagues will continue to publish Grove Press titles.
Mundy, who has relinquished his chairmanship in favour of the publishing role he has assumed from Mirchandani, said he was "desperately sad" at having to make people redundant but that the moves brought to an end a period of "suspended animation" which followed Atlantic's disastrous results for year end 31 December 2010, which saw the company turn a modest profit of £3,541 for 2009 into a loss of £1,814,614. Mundy admitted that the 2012 results, due shortly, would "not be very pretty" but predicted a strong 2014, which includes A N Wilson's biography of Queen Victoria, one of the more positive aspects of the legacy of the now-departed Anthony Cheetham.
This year, said Mundy, would see a revival of Atlantic's fortunes. It was Mirchandani, who joined Atlantic in 2007, who provided the publisher with its most conspicuous success - the Man Booker-winning White Tiger, which in retrospect can perhaps be seen as the root cause of the problems, providing a dose of over-confidence in a young company - and at what turned out to be a bad moment in the general economic cycle. He will leave at the end of the month "by mutual agreement". Mundy praised his "outstanding work in the almost seven years he has been at Atlantic, and I am sorry we will not to be working together in the future. I'm immensely grateful to him for all he has done in his time here and will miss him. I wish him every success."
Mirchandani, widely acknowledged as a brilliant publisher who is not the easiest fit in today's corporate environment, said: "These have been seven extraordinary years. It has been a great privilege to work at Atlantic and with a wonderfully talented team of colleagues and authors. With the company's refinancing complete and a strong list for 2014, Atlantic's future looks bright. As for me, I am looking forward to new challenges."
There are three other casualties: Robin Boothroyd, a production assistant; Sarah Pocklington, Marketing Manager; and Richard Baker, who joined Key Accounts some 18 months ago. As part of the Faber Alliance, Mundy has probably decided that not all these positions are now necessary.
Roche, with whom Mundy (like Mirchandani) worked many years ago at Orion - where all of them of course worked with Anthony Cheetham - is at heart an accountant who will bring financial rigour to the operation, a firm hand on the tiller in rough Atlantic weather. But to add ballast and a sharp-eyed look-out, John Sprinks joins the crew as Finance Director, a role he already holds at Murdoch Books London.
Mundy acknowledged that the previous two years had been "tough ones for Atlantic Books and it is sad to say goodbye to some tremendous friends and colleagues. However, I very much welcome the show of support from our shareholders and the chairmanship of Peter Roche. Both will give the company much stronger foundations for future growth and enable us to further improve the way we publish our wonderful authors."
He was, he admitted, pleased to divest himself of the Chairman's responsibilities and, in retrospect, would probably agree that combining the roles of Chairman and CEO was not a sound idea. Indeed, the City, as Bloomsbury's Nigel Newton learned a few years back, views the duality with scepticism. Publishing, that is the buying and editing of books, was where Mundy came from and it is probably the role with which he still feels most comfortable and most fully engaged.
This story first appeared today in the U.K.'s BookBrunch.