Simon & Schuster Names Its New Board Members

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

A deep bench of experience, from Penguin Random House and Disney to TikTok and YouTube, is on Simon & Schuster’s new board of directors.

Board members named by Simon & Schuster president and CEO Jonathan Karp are, upper row from left Richard Sarnoff; Ted Oberwager; and Chresten Knaff. On the lower row are, from left, Madeline McIntosh; V Pappas; and Kareem Daniel. Image: Simon & Schuster

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Karp: ‘An Exciting New Chapter in Simon & Schuster’s Story’
Less than a month before the start of Simon & Schuster‘s 100th anniversary year, the company has today (December 7) announced its first board of directors.

The tone of today’s media messaging is brisk and upbeat, president and CEO Jonathan Karp naming these directors as the house “embarks on its journey as an independent, standalone publishing company.”

The news comes four months after the August 7th announcement that the investment firm KKR (Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.) had signed an agreement with Paramount Global to buy Simon & Schuster for US$1.62 billion in an all-cash transaction. And it was in early March 2020 that the late Carolyn Reidy, then CEO of S&S, told the staff in a memo that this internationally influential American Big Five house was to be sold.

Time doesn’t always fly, and the years between Reidy’s memo and today’s announcement of the company’s new board have been long ones, crowded at times with concern and drama, as when in October 2022 Judge Florence Pan of the US District Court in Washington blocked the Bertelsmann/Penguin Random House bid to acquire Simon & Schuster.

Jonathan Karp

In today’s comment on these appointees, Karp says, “The formation of this board marks an exciting new chapter in Simon & Schuster’s story. We’re thrilled to have such a dynamic and highly qualified team guiding us forward.

“Their collective experience in digital innovation, global business strategy, and deep understanding of the publishing ecosystem will be instrumental in our growth and success as an independent publisher.” 

Karp is himself a member of the seven-member board, naming six colleagues, three of them independent and three from KKR.

Publishing, Entertainment, Digital Media

The new Simon & Schuster board member best known to the international book publishing industry is Madeline McIntosh, the former CEO of Penguin Random House USA. Today’s announcement says that McIntosh’s “expertise in navigating the complexities of the publishing industry and her acumen in strategic development and market expansion will be valuable to Simon & Schuster’s future growth.”  McIntosh currently serves as president of the board of directors for Poets & Writers.

Special attention is given in today’s announcement to McIntosh’s strong grasp of a data-driven understanding of markets and technologies, something clearly evident in September when she spoke on issues around AI in Frankfurter Buchmesse‘s pre-fair Frankfurt Rights program.

V Pappas was for the better part of five years with TikTok, for almost half that time its COO. Prior to that, they were with YouTube as its global head of creative insights, being instrumental in the platform’s development of the “Creator Playbook” program. Now on the board of the Paley Center for Media, Pappas is expected to bring significant experience and insight  into unlocking Simon & Schuster’s goals of reaching new audiences, creating modern platforms, and harnessing technology. Pappas’ appointment has caught the attention today of Jill Goldsmith at Deadline, who notes that Pappas left their leadership role at TikTok in June, having followed in 2020 the short tenure there of Kevin Mayer, who’d previously spent almost 15 years at Disney.

Kareem Daniel has 18 years in strategy, storytelling, and commercialization with Disney, most recently having held the role of chairman at Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution. That portfolio meant that his responsibilities included the company’s filmed entertainment, television networks, and streaming platforms. Frank Pallotta at CNN Business in November 2022 had noted that Daniel would be leaving Disney as Bob Iger returned to that company and moved quickly to reorganize the distribution division’s elements.

On the KKR side of the table, Richard Sarnoff brings extensive publishing experience to the board, having been a  senior executive and supervisory board member at Bertelsmann, where he held  leadership roles both at Random House and Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments. He’s a past chair of the Association of American Publishers, and is the chair of media in KKR’s Americas Private Equity business and on the boards of OverDrive, Teaching Strategies, Chegg, AST SpaceMobile, Lightcast, and multiple nonprofit organizations.

Ted Oberwager, a KKR partner, heads up Americas Private Equity’s verticals in gaming, entertainment, media, and sports. And Chresten Knaff, a KKR director, is on the firm’s industry teams in software and media. Knaff and Oberwager, Simon & Schuster’s information today says, have played key roles in KKR’s publishing-industry investments in OverDrive and RBmedia.

Oberwager is on the boards of AppLovin, OverDrive, PlayOn Sports; and Skydance Media. Knaff is on the boards of ApexAnalytix, OverDrive, and Therapy Brands, and is a board observer at BMC Software.

As Elizabeth Harris at The New York Times today points out, Simon & Schuster has turned in a strong performance on the market under Karp’s leadership, and one of its current flagship successes is Britney Spears’ The Woman in Me with 1.8 million copies sold since its October release in the States.

Circana BookScan‘s Kristen McLean recently reported that in November, Spears’ American print sales alone came to 304,451 units, placing the memoir at the No. 2 spot on that consumer research company’s US bestseller list.

A programming note: Jonathan Karp has been announced as the opening keynote speaker in London Book Fair‘s Main Stage programming. His appearance is set for 10:30 a.m. GMT on March 12. Registration for the trade show at Olympia London now is open.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Simon & Schuster is here, more on the work of Jonathan Karp is here, and more on mergers and acquisitions in publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.