Future uncertain: In further upheaval for Simon & Schuster Canada, Kevin Hanson is out as publisher

Kevin Hanson had been S&S Canada’s president and publisher since 2013. (Photo: S&S)

The news dropped like a stealth bomb on the second-last day of February.

In a memo dated February 28, 2024, Jonathan Karp, President and CEO of Simon & Schuster, one of the so-called Big Five multinational publishers, revealed that Kevin Hanson, who had been S&S Canada’s president and publisher since 2013, had left the company. No reason for his departure was given. Jeremy Cammy, vice president of marketing and publicity at S&S Canada, responded to inquiries about why Hanson left with a copy of Karp’s memo.

“Under his direction,” Karp writes of Hanson, “Simon & Schuster Canada built the brands and sales of many of our authors in Canada … helping Simon & Schuster to become a vital presence in the Canadian marketplace.” Karp singles out the publication of Jesse Thistle’s 2019 memoir From the Ashes as perhaps “the greatest accomplishment during Kevin’s tenure.”

The news comes at a precarious time for S&S. In August 2023, private equity firm KKR purchased the company from its former parent, Paramount Global, after an attempted merger between S&S and fellow multinational Penguin Random House was scuppered by a successful antitrust suit. At the time of the acquisition, Karp told The New York Times he was “thrilled” with the outcome, going on to say, “They plan to invest in us and make us even greater than we already are. What more could a publishing company want?”

At the same time, the U.S. advocacy organization the Authors Guild expressed cautious optimism that the new owners would pay heed to the exigencies of the publishing business and not expect huge windfalls of profit right out of the gate. “The Authors Guild hopes that KKR as a private equity firm will defer to the editorial leadership at Simon & Schuster, recognizing that publishing is a unique business model that requires vision and creativity in ways that don’t always justify themselves on P&L sheets,” the group wrote in a statement.

Since then, there have been a number of significant staffing changes at S&S, even before this week’s surprise announcement about the top job being vacated. In December, word came down that Nita Pronovost, vice president and editor-in-chief who writes bestselling mysteries under the pseudonym Nita Prose, was leaving the company. That departure came two months after Felicia Quon, vice president of marketing and communications, and Adria Iwasutiak, vice president and director of publicity and sales, left in October 2023. In August 2023, Executive Editor Janie Yoon left S&S for a position with Doubleday Canada.

Cammy, a former executive at Indigo Books and Music (a company that has had its own series of disruptions in the past year), was brought on around the time of Pronovost’s departure; the company had already hired former HarperCollins editor Jim Gifford and Rosemary Shipton as executive editors.

So much movement in the upper ranks of a company cannot help but project an image of instability, especially when combined with S&S Canada’s reluctance to offer any clarification as to why so many departures have occurred in such a relatively short time span. Nature, and the publishing industry, abhor a vacuum and it’s only a matter of time before the rumour mill starts churning.

This is especially true for an announcement that comes so unexpectedly. Hanson’s time at S&S Canada was particularly fruitful. He launched the Canadian publishing program at the house in 2015 with former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s hockey book A Great Game. S&S Canada has since gone on to publish bestsellers from Andrew Pyper, Marissa Stapley, Samantha M. Bailey, and others. In 2022, Iain Reid’s third novel, We Spread, became one of the first titles to appear, also under Hanson’s aegis, as part of the new literary imprint Scribner Canada.

“Publishing companies are comprised of people,” Hanson said at the time. He went on to say, “Our expansion with the Scribner imprint is a confidence that we have the team in place.”

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