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The international publishing community has been shocked and saddened by the death of Simon & Schuster president and CEO Carolyn Reidy who died from a heart attack on 12 May at the age of 71. Widely liked and respected in the international publishing community, tributes have come in from across the industry. Ian Chapman, CEO and publisher of S&S UK and International descried her as “empowering, inspiring [and] approachable to every member of the company”. Author Stephen King said “I’ve known her – and respected her – for years. It’s a great loss”.
Her passing, coming just five months after the death of Knopf editor-in-chief Sonny Mehta, who was 77, and almost two years to the day after the death of former Penguin CEO Peter Mayer who was 82, marks the passing of a particular generation of leaders who all held prominent positions on different sides of the Atlantic for decades. Book fairs, which face changed times anyway, will seem strange without Reidy’s presence.
Among initiatives Reidy introduced in her 28 years with the company was Salaam Reads, a children’s imprint launched in 2016 ‘to introduce readers of all faiths and backgrounds to a wide variety of Muslim children and families and offer Muslim kids an opportunity to see themselves reflected positively in published works’.
Dennis Eulau, Executive vice-president of operations and chief financial officer at S&S, broke the news of her death “with great sorrow” to staff in a statement which read: “Carolyn was both an exemplary leader and a supremely talented and visionary publishing executive. Since joining Simon & Schuster in 1992 as president of the Trade Division, she has been a vital and energetic force within our company, leading us to unprecedented growth on both the domestic and international fronts, and steering us through the transition to publishing in the digital era.
“Her fierce intelligence and curiosity, and her determination to know everything about a given subject if it could help us to be better, were matched by her complete and total accessibility: she wrote congratulatory notes to employees when they were promoted, and colleagues in every corner of our company always felt that they had a first-person relationship with her, and that they could reach out to her to discuss any subject and receive a thoughtful response in return….
“The list of authors whom she championed to acclaim and success is legion and includes books by Pulitzer Prize winners…. world figures, celebrities, newsmakers and journalists including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Dick Cheney, Walter Isaacson and Bob Woodward [and] bestselling novelists Mary Higgins Clark, Vince Flynn [and] Stephen King…”
Before joining Simon & Schuster, Carolyn was president and publisher of Avon Books, after having worked at William Morrow and Random House, where she was publisher of Vintage Books and associate publisher of the Random House imprint. She began her publishing career in 1974 in the subsidiary rights department of Random House.
Eulau continued: “I have had the privilege of being a partner to Carolyn for 25 years. A fierce leader, loyal friend and passionate supporter, Carolyn inspired me and challenged me every day that we worked together. … She walked through life with an abundance of joy, and loved to celebrate the accomplishments and milestones of her colleagues and friends with great generosity and fanfare. That so many of us at Simon & Schuster have been friends and colleagues with her for many, many years says everything about the kind of person and leader she was, and we will all miss her terribly.”