RH Shocker

The Wall Street Journal today breaks the news that the new head of Random House, to be announced tomorrow, is expected to be someone totally unknown to American publishing, Marcus Dohle, the current head of Bertelsmann’s worldwide printing group, Arvato (the article includes a long string of official “no comments”). UPDATE, 8:36 a.m. — PW Daily says the news was made official in a memo to the staff this morning and Dohle will take over beginning May 31st.

The WSJ article (available only to subscribers), emphasizes that the 39-year-old Dohle has made his career by being entrepreneurial. He added cell phone repair, call centers and billing systems as well as pharmaceutical storage to Arvato’s traditional print business. This is credited with turning Arvato into a “major growth engine for Bertelsmann”, according to the Journal.

As to what Bertelsmann head, Hartmut Ostrowski is thinking, the WSJ states:

Mr. Ostrowski wants to introduce Arvato’s aggressive diversification drive to other parts of the company, including Random House, which is struggling to retain consumers increasingly drawn toward videogames, the Web and other forms of digital entertainment. One area of interest that Mr. Ostrowski already has flagged is education services.

Interesting, since many trade publishers divested their educational divisions in the ’90s. Random House never had one.

The online media gossip site, Gawker (which also runs a photo of Dohle, who is not pictured in the WSJ piece) gives their succinct take on the story with the headline, “New Random House Chief to Make Publishing Even Less Sexy.”

Further update, 9:30 a.m.: For those deep into Bertelsmann-ology, Publishers Lunch has links to download the various announcements to RH staff:

Ostrowski’s letter
Ostrowski’s in-house interview
Peter Olson’s letter to employees

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