Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Layoffs Hit Thomas Nelson

By Lynn Garrett -- Publishers Weekly, 4/22/2008 5:45:00 PM
A round of layoffs hit Thomas Nelson staffers Tuesday. Lindsey Nobles, director of corporate communications, confirmed that there had been “a modest reduction in our workforce,” though she would not release a number, calling it “a small percentage of our workforce—a single digit percentage.” The last “significant” reduction was in 2001, when as CEO Michael Hyatt recalled “it was about 65 people. This is less than that. At that time it was economically driven, while this is strategy-driven.”

Hyatt explained that the layoffs were a result of Nelson’s recently announced plans to reduce title output by 50% in order to focus its resources on fewer, better-selling books. “When you do that, it doesn’t require the same infrastructure,” he said. “Each title, whether big or small, requires about the same level of effort.” Asked whether employees may have had some inkling that staffing cuts would follow that move, Hyatt said, “They certainly know that the marketplace is changing, and fairly dramatically, and that really requires us to think outside of business as usual. I don’t think most people were surprised by it.”

Cuts came across the board, Hyatt said, with about 10% of the positions eliminated at the v-p level or higher. Hyatt declined to name names: “I just want to honor these people, so I’m not going to comment at this point.” He added that “it’s never easy, because these people are our friends. We have tried to treat them that way, so we made an exception to our severance policy and went beyond what it calls for. And we’ll do all we can to help them through the transition.”

The layoffs come on the heels of Nelson’s announcement last week that it would bow out of both BEA and ICRS. Asked whether he was concerned that this latest move would reflect poorly on the company’s performance, Hyatt said, “No. This is a time when publishers need to be getting aligned with the future. People are too concerned with how something will look to their peers, which causes this industry in many ways to be stuck in the past.”


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