Wednesday, May 20, 2009

File Under WTF?

OK, so Peter Olson has been gone a while but apparently he still lives in Marion Maneker's memory: (Reuters)

Legendary Simon and Schuster CEO Dick Snyder was the figure who turned publishing companies into public corporations. And it is as corporate enterprises that the book barons lost their distinctiveness, acumen, and clout. Indeed, Peter Olson's lasting legacy was not making a business of Random House but making it a business that was too big, wasteful, and flabby to succeed.

As head of U.S. operations, he presided over the purchase of Random House from the Newhouse family and combined it with Bertelsmann's own Bantam, Doubleday, Dell operation. The resulting empire controlled 10 percent of the book market but could never outrun its own massive cost structure. It lumbered from hit to hit without making progress toward greater profits. By the time Olson left for Harvard Business School—pity the students he teaches—Random was envied by no one.

As an intro to the above the author chastises Olson for a comment (taken out of context by him) quoted in Portfolio about having a hand in being "part of a process of making something that was a gentleman's hobby into a real business."

Truth is, you could drop the three or four paragraphs in question out of his commentary and I don't think it would matter at all. If you are going to do a hatchet job on a managers' legacy, do the job don't bury it in an article about ebooks.

(Gender corrected - thanks SW.)

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