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Layoffs at Random House, M&S as foreign rights sales are outsourced

Both Random House of Canada and McClelland & Stewart are discontinuing their rights departments, announcing today that going forward, the majority of subsidiary rights activities for both firms will be handled by The Cooke Agency International, a new company created by the owners of The Cooke Agency.

The move has resulted in several layoffs at both firms. Former M&S executive Marilyn Biderman, the company’s director of rights and contracts, has been let go, as has M&S rights manager Krista Willis. At Random House, former executive Jennifer Shepherd, director of rights and contracts, has been laid off, as have associate rights director Ron Eckel and associate domestic rights director Fiona Harvey.

In a press release issued by Random House of Canada, president and CEO Brad Martin justified the move as a necessary cost-saving measure: The reality of our business is that we can no longer financially justify maintaining a subsidiary rights department of our size to pursue as its primary duty the foreign-rights sales of the limited catalogue of titles we have to offer. In a separate statement from M&S, which is 25%-owned by Random House, president and publisher Doug Pepper echoed Martin’s concerns over the need to increase our potential market leverage.

Both Random House and M&S will continue to maintain their contracts departments. At Random House, Samantha North has been promoted to director of contracts and will report to Martin, and Naomi Pinn and Kara Bristow have been appointed as contracts associates. At M&S, Claire Sharpe has been promoted to contracts manager.

Going forward, domestic first- and second-serial rights “ the rights to reproduce excerpts in magazines and other periodicals “ will be handled by Random House and M&S’s respective publicity departments.

The Cooke Agency International will operate as a separate company from The Cooke Agency and have its own offices in downtown Toronto. The agency will announce new hires in the coming weeks, according to a release.

For more details and reaction to the news see tonight’s Q&Q Omni.