Several top editors at Penguin Random House accept buyout offers; layoffs also underway

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Penguin Random House.
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Some of publishing’s most celebrated and enduring editors are leaving Penguin Random House after accepting buyout packages. Meanwhile, an undetermined number of companywide layoffs has begun, according to publishing officials.

Longtime editors of such prominent writers as Anne Rice, Lorrie Moore and Nobel laureates Alice Munro and Elie Wiesel are among those stepping down by the end of the year. Penguin Random House declined Monday to comment on any individual staff members, but publishing officials with knowledge of the buyouts confirmed that departing editors include Vicky Wilson, Jonathan Segal and Ann Close. The officials were not authorized to discuss the decisions and asked to not be identified.

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“All of us at Penguin Random House greatly respect the life-changing decisions of those U.S. colleagues who have chosen to take the recent company-wide Voluntary Separation Offer,” reads a Penguin Random House statement provided Monday to the Associated Press.


“Their contributions to our publishing, our booksellers, and to our readers have made a meaningful difference in who we are as a company and community, and their dedication to mentoring and to sharing their expertise and experience with our next generation of talent will be one of their major legacies,” the statement said. “We thank them and wish them a joyful and fulfilling next chapter.”

Publishing sources told the AP that layoffs began Monday, with those let go including editor Daniel Halpern, who joined Knopf in 2021 after heading the HarperCollins imprint Ecco since the early 1970s. His authors at Knopf included Joyce Carol Oates, with whom he also worked at Ecco.

Penguin Random House declined comment on the layoffs.

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The buyouts and layoffs come amid a broader reorganization at Penguin Random House, which this year overhauled its Random House and Crown divisions. The departures at the country’s largest publishing house also follow numerous other high-profile changes. Global company Chief Executive Markus Dohle and U.S. CEO Madeline McIntosh left within months of PRH’s failed attempt to purchase rival publisher Simon & Schuster, a deal struck down last fall by a federal judge. In June, Robert Gottlieb, a former Knopf editor in chief who worked on all of Robert Caro’s Lyndon B. Johnson books, died at age 92. Knopf has not yet announced a new editor for the fifth volume.

HarperCollins and Hachette Book Group are among other publishers who have offered buyouts in recent months. Compared with the previous two years, the overall sales in 2023 have been down across the industry, though the numbers are still higher than the last pre-pandemic year, 2019.

Wilson, Segal and Close have all worked for decades at the Penguin Random House imprint Alfred A. Knopf, one of the industry’s premier publishers. Others leaving include Knopf Managing Editor Kathy Hourigan, who joined the company in 1963; and Andy Hughes, the imprint’s senior vice president of production and design. Joan Didion‘s editor at Knopf, Shelley Wanger, also took the buyout.

Hourigan and Hughes have been closely involved in the publication of Caro’s series on Johnson, a project dating to the 1970s. A spokesperson for Caro said no plan was yet in place for Hourigan or Hughes to continue on a freelance basis with Caro, who is writing the long-awaited fifth and likely final volume on Johnson.