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…