Column Editor: Myer Kutz (President, Myer Kutz Associates, Inc.)
I thought I’d surf the Web to take a look at who’s running scholarly publishing houses these days. First up in any such list has to be Elsevier, the elephant in any room, no matter how big the room is. Ron Mobed has been Elsevier’s CEO since August 2012. His resume includes stints at Cengage (president), Information Handling Services (co-president and co-COO) and, before he switched careers, Schlumberger. He holds an engineering bachelor’s degree from Cambridge and a master’s degree in petroleum engineering from Imperial College. He was brought into Elsevier in 2011 to head up the company’s science and technology businesses.
Another CEO with a Cambridge engineering degree is Nigel Portwood, of Oxford University Press. He also has an MBA from INSEAD. He began his career at Strategic Consultants in London, where he focused on media and consumer goods. In 1995 he joined Pearson and eventually served as president and CEO of Pearson Education Europe, Middle East and Africa from April 1999 to December 2002. The following January, he became CFO of the Penguin Group. The president of OUP USA is Niko Pfund, who has a BA in English from Amherst and has been at OUP since 2000.
Wiley’s President and CEO is Mark Allin, who stepped in on June 1 of this year when Stephen M. Smith retired, after six years at the helm, due to previously-disclosed medical reasons. Allin joined Wiley 12 years ago after the acquisition of his own company, Capstone Publishing, which he co-founded in 1996. Prior to co-founding Capstone, Allin worked at Blackwell (senior commissioning editor), Prentice-Hall (publisher), and Pearson Education (publishing director). He served as managing director of Wiley Asia, moved up to Executive Vice President, Professional Development in 2010 and then COO in 2015. He attended Anglia Ruskin University from 1980 to 1983, which makes him older than his photographs on the Wiley Website would indicate, at least to old-guy me. According to Wiley’s press release, he refocused the company away from underperforming consumer publishing and toward professional “learning solutions.”
This implies that there was a prior period when Wiley’s strategy called for increased consumer publishing. But times — and marketplaces — change, some product lines surge while others wane due to external realities, and companies adjust their strategies accordingly. If an executive assesses the environment properly, makes appropriate adjustments, and puts in place a strategy that matches the direction the marketplace moves, he or she wins and moves up the greasy pole. If not, the hapless executive slides down.
In any case, I’m not using this space to provide an accounting of remarks academic publishing CEOs have made over the years. As long as they don’t push their companies in directions opposite to those where their markets are headed, and as long as the external business environment remains positive, their companies — and they themselves — will prosper. For example, revenue streams of scholarly publishers who have substantial journal offerings have migrated from print to electronic in recent years, The market moved in that direction, and as long as an executive didn’t row against the tide, everything went well. All that said, riding the waves isn’t the easiest thing in the world to get right.
An Elsevier veteran Derk J. Haank is the CEO of Springer-Verlag, which he joined in 2004. He held various high-level positions at Elsevier from 1986 to 2003. He served as Scientific Assistant at Free University Amsterdam from 1978 to 1986 and as Head of Research Institute of Economics. He holds a master’s degree in economics and business administration from University of Amsterdam.
Roger Horton, whose LinkedIn photograph shows him in jeans and strumming a guitar, is CEO of Taylor & Francis, which is now an academic publishing division of Informa plc. He’s been there for about two decades, the past 11 as CEO. Previously, he was at McGraw-Hill, Europe and Thomson International. According to BloombergBusiness, Horton was one of the four executive directors that successfully floated T&F on the London Stock Exchange in 1998, serving on the plc Board until the merger with Informa in 2003.
Now, and not a moment too soon, for some diversity. The CEO of Wolters Kluwer since September 2003 is Nancy McKinstry, an American now living in the the Netherlands, Wikipedia tells us. Early in her career, McKinstry held management positions with Booz Allen, where she focused on media and technology industries. In 1999, she was CEO of SCP Communications, a medical information company, before rejoining Wolters Kluwer to head its North American operations. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from University of Rhode Island and an MBA in finance and marketing from Columbia Business School, as well as an honorary Doctor of Laws from Rhode Island. According to her Wikipedia entry, McKinstry emphasizes diversity throughout Wolters Kluwer. The results — 28% female executives (in 2003, only 20% had top leadership posts), 43% female managers, and 54% female employees — look meaningful and should become even more meaningful in the future. Here’s a good example of a CEO who’s taking her company in a direction in which she wants it to go.
Finally, let’s look at the world’s largest scientific society — the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS is a membership organization with a president and other officers elected from among the members. It’s managed by a professional staff. The Executive Director and CEO is Dr. Thomas J. Connolly, who retired from DuPont in December 2014, where he was an executive VP. He led businesses and R&D organizations while based in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. As we have seen, many CEOs have international business experience, typically in the Far East. He graduated from Princeton with degrees in chemical engineering and economics and received his chemical engineering doctorate from Cambridge, which, as we have also seen, has figured in the careers of scholarly publishing CEOs.
The head of ACS publishing operations is Bryan Crawford, who worked previously at Alan R. Liss’s eponymous company and then at Wiley for 16 years after its acquisition of Liss. He holds a BS from Maryland and a PhD from Johns Hopkins, both in chemistry and biochemistry.