In one of the more surprising announcements in recent memory, Toronto independent publisher ECW Press and children’s publisher Annick Press have entered into a collaborative partnership that will eventually see the transfer of majority ownership from Annick’s Rick Wilks to ECW co-publisher David Caron. According to a press release sent by ECW on Thursday, this deal has been in the works for several years and will be carried out “with much care and consideration.”
In the press release, Wilks states his goal to preserve Annick as a going concern in Canadian children’s book publishing. He expresses a belief that ECW “is the ideal partner to ensure that Annick, with its talented staff, can look forward to many more years of publishing excellence.” The transition of majority ownership is expected to take place over the next five years. The new arrangement is not expected to result in any staff layoffs at either company, though an accompanying “FAQ” fact-sheet indicates that there is still the possibility that the two publishers may combine offices at some point in the future.
Caron and Wilks are careful to point out that this is a partnership, not a merger or a takeover. Editorial, design, marketing and sales, distribution, and finances will remain separate in each company, as will grant applications. It appears that as new majority owner, Caron will have some involvement in the day-to-day activities at Annick, though the press materials are not clear as to exactly what this means or what form this involvement would take. They do indicate that the eventual goal is to have Caron split his attention evenly between the two companies.
As for Wilks, the FAQ sheet indicates he will gradually reduce his responsibilities and time spent at Annick, although no firm timetable is given and it remains unclear as to whether he intends to retire completely within or shortly after the five-year transition period.
“Diversity of revenue is a hallmark of the survival of book publishers in Canada — diversity by territory, book format, genre — and Annick and ECW seemed a natural complement,” reads one section in the FAQs. “There can be some things that come from larger scale, but we’re going to approach that very carefully.”
The editorial mandate of each house will remain the same in the short term as the two entities enter into a collaboration intended “to bring innovation, shared expertise, and some economies of scale that can ensure each company finds even more success in the future.”
In the press release, Caron is quoted as saying he is “committed to keeping Annick Press fiercely independent and to being deeply involved in steering the continuity of Annick into the next generation.”