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Posts Tagged ‘Bertelsmann’

Weisberg Departs from Random House

PW Daily reported yesterday that Don Weisberg, who has headed the large Random House sales group since Random’s acquisition by Bertelsmann in 1998, will leave the company February 28. Weisberg, who is executive vp and COO of North America, also oversees Random House of Canada. All of his duties will be assumed by Edward Volini, Random’s deputy chairman.

n his memo to employees, Random chairman Peter Olson said that he and Weisberg “have been discussing his desire to consider and to pursue new professional challenges….I have tried hard to change his mind over the past few months but ultimately respected his wishes to move on.” While Olson was aware of Weisberg’s plans, the news of Weisberg’s departure came as a surprise to Random’s employees, including the sales force. Olson’s decision to not replace Weisberg with someone with a sales background is also a surprise. Weisberg developed strong credibility with accounts, and Olson called him “a pragmatic and customer-oriented leader and thinker… who ran the sales group with an open mind and great heart.”

The news might also be an extra surprise in the wake of recent sales force firings, anywhere from a few individuals to more than 3 dozen, and may make one wonder what, if any, further plans Random House has with regards to gutting modifying its sales force…

Changes to Bertelsmann Board

The Mohn family, which owns the giant conglomerate (and parent company of Random House) Bertelsmann, has implemented some changes to its supervisory board. A Bertelsmann spokesman confirmed to Scott Roxbrough Wednesday that changes to the Bertelsmann Verwaltungsgesellschaft (BVG), the holding company that controls 100% of voting shares in Bertelsmann AG, will see the BVG board reduced from eight members to six, with three coming from the Mohn family – this giving them a greater say in the company’s operation. Family patriarch Reinhard Mohn, his wife Liz and their daughter Brigitte will remain on the BVG board while son Christoph Mohn will step down from the board along with Erich Ruppik, head of Bertelsmann’s workers council.

Bertelsmann CEO Gunter Thielen, a Mohn confidant who moves from the CEO job to become chairman of Bertelsmann’s supervisory board in January 2008, will stay on the BVG board, as will Bertelsmann supervisory board chairman Dieter Vogel, who resigns from that post at the end of this year, and Vogel’s deputy chairman on the supervisory board, Juergen Strube. But Theilen’s successor as CEO, Hartmut Ostrowski, will not have a say in the holding company.

Ostrowski Chosen to be Bertelsmann’s New CEO

As expected, Liz Mohn, head of the German dynasty that controls Bertelsmann, nominated board member Hartmut Ostrowski to succeed Gunter Thielen as chief executive of Europe’s largest media conglomerate, reports the Financial Times. The 64-year-old Thielen will take over as chairman of the company’s supervisory board when he gives up day-to-day responsibility for the group behind RTL and Random House at the end of the year, people close to the company told the Financial Times.

Ostrowski, who has run the printing and media services division Arvato since 2002, is expected to follow the conservative strategy devised by Thielen, which saw the group retreat from its former pursuit of online ventures. “Ostrowski will cement Thielen’s strategy of turning Bertelsmann back into a solid German company with international bits, like RTL TV in Europe and Random House [books] in the US,” said one person who knows the group.

Bertelsmann to pick new CEO

The man on the left is Hartmut Ostrowski, head of the printing company Arvato and the current front-runner for the plum position of being the CEO of Bertelsmann (the parent company of Arvato, BMG and Random House.) The New York Times reports that the announcement is “days away”, a choice expected to be made after a meeting this week of a four-member supervisory board personnel committee. As the only family member on that committee, Liz Mohn, the wife of Bertelsmann’s 85-year-old patriarch, Reinhard Mohn, will play a decisive role in the handover of power.

If this proves to be the case (another possible candidate is Ewald Walgenbach, the chief executive of Bertelsmann’s book club business, Direct Group)Ostrowski will be the company’s first CEO since Thomas Middelhoff was ousted in 2002 after an unsuccessful attempt to take the company public. And whoever gets the top job has all manner of fun tasks managing a $10 billion dollar debt and the influence of the Mohn family, who wield considerable power on Bertelsmann’s board.

Fun with Expensively Made Corporate Films

Now here’s a movie that would likely make extremely interesting viewing but is equally likely never to be aired in America: a specially commissioned biopic of Reinhard Mohn, the controversial founding father of the Bertelsmann publishing group. The Times reports that only a few hundred executives will watch the film, made by Bertelsmann’s board as a gift in honor of Mohn’s 85th birthday. Which also explains what got left out: there’s nary a mention of Mohn’s first wife (with whom he fathered three children) for fear of offending Liz Mohn, his current wife (and former mistress) and serious glossing over of Mohn’s wartime past, including his Hitler Youth membership and his father’s financial contributions to the SS.

But if you’re one of 700 lucky executives able to view the multi-million dollar film on January 22, don’t expect the movie to be very good. “Rich merchants and vain rulers have let themselves be portrayed by painters for centuries,” Die Welt said yesterday. “In that sense Nico Hofmann [of teamWorx] should be seen as the Frans Hals of the 21st century.”

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