Simon & Schuster, one of the country’s major publishing houses, named Jonathan Karp its new chief executive on Thursday, succeeding Carolyn Reidy, who died earlier this month.
Mr. Karp, previously the president and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s adult publishing division, will be charged with leading the company through a challenging period, as it remains up for sale during a pandemic. Some of the books it has coming out this year are “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir” by John Bolton, a memoir by Alex Trebek called “The Answer Is …,” and “The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump” by the Washington Post reporter Mary Jordan.
A longtime editor who has been with Simon & Schuster for 10 years and was considered a natural successor to Ms. Reidy, Mr. Karp oversaw the publication of “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson, “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen and “Frederick Douglass” by David Blight, which won a Pulitzer Prize in History.
“We’ve been through a lot together over the past four months,” Mr. Karp said in an email to the Simon & Schuster staff on Thursday. “Our mission remains the same: to publish the most satisfying books we can find, with passion and purpose and profitability. What has changed are the times into which we will be discovering and publishing these books. As we search for meaning in the chaos and joy amid the sadness, the books we champion will serve as a beacon and a balm.”
Mr. Karp began his career in publishing in 1989 as an editorial assistant at Random House, after answering a classified ad in The New York Times. He said he was hired because he could type 100 words per minute; he eventually became its editor in chief. He went on to start an imprint called Twelve at the Hachette Book Group in 2005, where he published well-received best sellers including “God Is Not Great” by Christopher Hitchens and “War,” by Sebastian Junger.
Mr. Karp became publisher of Simon & Schuster’s adult publishing division in 2010. The engine of the publishing house, the division is its biggest revenue driver with its most prominent authors.
The role of chief executive is often filled by somebody with a business background, perhaps from marketing or sales. Mr. Karp, however, comes from editing, which is something he plans to keep doing “extremely selectively.”
“I think it’s great that I get to bring that perspective to the business decisions that we make on a larger scale,” he said in an interview. “At the end of the day, it all comes down to the authors and their books. That’s what it’s about, that’s why we’re here, and that’s what drives our business. If the books are successful, we’re successful.”
ViacomCBS, which owns Simon & Schuster, announced in March, just before the country shut down, that it was putting the publishing house up for sale so that it could focus on its streaming and sports content. But Mr. Karp said that Simon & Schuster has long operated as an independent business within larger corporations.
“It’s rare that a publishing company of our size and value is for sale,” he said. “I’m confident that anybody who wants us will be good owners, and I know that a lot of people want us.”
Simon & Schuster is one of the five biggest book publishers in the United States, part of an industry that has seen tremendous consolidation in recent years. Founded by Richard L. Simon and M. Lincoln Schuster in 1924, the company began as a publisher of crossword puzzle books.