J.K. Rowling’s Pottermore.com loses CEO as Redmayne heads back to HarperCollins

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J. K. Rowling’s virtual Harry Potter community and digital bookstore, Pottermore.com, is losing its CEO as Charlie Redmayne heads back to HarperCollins as CEO of HarperCollins U.K. Redmayne replaces Victoria Barnsley, who has been CEO and publisher for 13 years.

Prior to being appointed CEO of Pottermore, where he’s been since 2011, Redmayne was EVP and chief digital officer at HarperCollins, splitting time between the U.S. and London. Before that, he served as head of commercial partnerships at BSkyB.

“Charlie’s experience and success operating at the leading edge of publishing makes him uniquely qualified to lead HarperCollins U.K. in this time of tremendous digital opportunity,” HarperCollins CEO Brian Murray said in a statement.

So why the CEO shakeup at HarperCollins U.K.? Outgoing CEO Barnsley said in a statement, “I’ve always wanted to time my departure so that I could leave the company at the right moment and in the best possible shape. Now is that time. HarperCollins is about to embark on a new chapter of its long history as part of the new News Corp, and I’m more than confident that its very talented teams, working with our best-in-class authors, will continue to go from strength to strength.” NewsCorp just spun off its publishing assets, including HarperCollins along with the newspapers, into a separate business.

What does this mean for Pottermore?

Pottermore is CEO-less for the time being. Neil Blair, Pottermore cofounder and Rowling’s literary agent, said in a statement, “We’d like to thank Charlie for his great work on Pottermore. As it enters an exciting new phase of development, with the support of primary partner Sony, and also of Warner Bros, Pottermore is in great shape, with a robust in-house team in place, and CTO Julian Thomas at the helm in the transition process” while the company looks for a new CEO.

Redmayne said of his departure:

“Steering Pottermore through such a groundbreaking time in its development has been a great experience, and I am proud of what we have achieved. We have built up a brilliant in-house team at Pottermore, and I know I am leaving it in the best possible hands. I am excited for its future under new leadership, where it will continue to push the boundaries of digital publishing.”

Redmayne’s leaving is bound to raise questions about how Pottermore is doing. Redmayne was Pottermore’s first CEO, and under him, the site has expanded: It’s attracted over 45 million unique visitors since its launch in April 2012, has launched a platform to work with other brands, has expanded to PlayStation and plans to launch apps later this year. The site hasn’t broken out ebook sales beyond the fact that it sold nearly $5 million worth in its first month of operation, though Redmayne recently told The Bookseller that ebook sales are “still a very significant figure each month.”

Here’s a video of me interviewing Redmayne about Pottermore at the paidContent 2012 conference:




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