John Sargent is being let go from his position as CEO of Macmillan, and it probably has to do with the policies he set for ebooks. Sargent is leaving Macmillan on 1 January. The president of Macmillan US Trade, Don Weisberg, has been named as his replacement.
According to the statement, “With great regret, Holtzbrinck Publishing Group announces the departure of John Sargent as of January 1st, 2021 as a result of disagreements regarding the direction of Macmillan.”
“The family shareholders, the supervisory board, my colleagues and I thank John Sargent deeply for making Macmillan a strong and highly successful publishing house and for his most helpful advice.”
““John’s principles and exemplary leadership have always been grounded in worthy, essential causes, be it freedom of speech, the environment, or support for the most vulnerable. Since Holtzbrinck shares these ideals, they will live on.”
This announcement comes about three months after Macmillan announced that Sargent was stepping back from day-to-day operations. Some will take that as a sign that his departure is related to current social issues, but I think Sargent’s policies concerning ebooks played a major role.
Remember, for the past couple years Sargent was a strong opponent to selling ebooks to libraries. He was almost the spokesperson for the position, and while he was CEO of Macmillan he made sure that library ebooks were ridiculously expensive, and difficult to acquire. (This has lead to public libraries boycotting Macmillan books.)
Sargent has also spent the past 11 years doing everything in his power to stimy ebook sales. He was one of the original Price Fix Six conspirators who brought about agency ebook pricing in early 2010, and then he also brought about agency 2.0 as soon as he could.
Sargent has done his best to limit Macmillan’s ebook sales, but now we are going into an era where print production and distribution is going to be problematic. If ebooks aren’t the future, they are at least the present, and thanks to Sargent Macmillan is not ready for what’s coming.
With all that in mind, is it really any surprise that he is leaving?