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Knopf names Reagan Arthur as its new publisher

This undated image released by Knopf shows Reagan Arthur, newly named executive vice president and publisher of Alfred A. Knopf.  She succeeds the longtime Knopf publisher Sonny Mehta, who died in December. (Michael Lionstar/Alfred A. Knopf via AP)
This undated image released by Knopf shows Reagan Arthur, newly named executive vice president and publisher of Alfred A. Knopf. She succeeds the longtime Knopf publisher Sonny Mehta, who died in December. (Michael Lionstar/Alfred A. Knopf via AP)

NEW YORK, N.Y. – One of the world's most prestigious literary publishers has chosen just its fourth editorial leader in its 105-year history: Reagan Arthur has been named executive vice president and publisher of Alfred A. Knopf, where authors have ranged from Robert A. Caro to the late Toni Morrison.

Arthur, 55, currently heads another venerable publisher, Little, Brown and Company, and will begin her new job on Feb. 11. She succeeds longtime Knopf publisher Sonny Mehta, who died in December at age 77 and had mentioned her in recent months as a worthy replacement. Mehta was widely respected for continuing, and enhancing, Knopf's stature as a publisher of high standards and steady profitability.

“I’m incredibly happy to report that as his last gift to us, Sonny identified Reagan Arthur as his first choice for this role," Madeline McIntosh, CEO of parent company Penguin Random House, wrote in a memo shared Thursday with The Associated Press.

“The range and breadth of Reagan’s editorial expertise and her leadership qualities are core to what makes her the ideal choice for this role. Her writers think the world of her, as do her colleagues. She has a proven track record and a reputation that means her recommendations are trusted by sales reps and booksellers alike."

Like Mehta, Arthur has a long record of success. Her authors include Kate Atkinson, Ronan Farrow and Tina Fey. She joined Little, Brown in 2001 as a senior editor and was promoted to publisher in 2013. In a telephone interview Thursday, Arthur said that Mehta had invited her to lunch last fall and discussed her coming to Knopf, although he did not indicate he was planning to retire in the near future.

“He sort of asked if this was something I would be interested in and said that he felt that we had similar skills, in knowing how to publish commercial and literary books,” Arthur said, adding that she loved her current job, but couldn't turn down the chance to run Knopf when offered to her after his death. “It was truly the hardest decision, because I am happy here and I love my authors and colleagues."

In a statement Thursday, the CEO of Little, Brown's corporate parent said Arthur “embodied the best of book publishing."

“She has superb taste, works brilliantly with writers of every kind, and leads the charge in bringing enthusiasm and attention to our authors and their work," wrote Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch.

Arthur will not take on all of the responsibilities of Mehta, chairman of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group at the time of his death. She will lead the Knopf, Schocken and Pantheon imprints and will report to Maya Mavjee, who has been named to the newly created position of president and publisher of Knopf Doubleday. Mavjee, who left Penguin Random House at the end of 2018 amid a corporate restructuring, will rejoin her old company on March 2. She had worked at Penguin Random House and at its predecessor companies for more than 20 years, most recently as president and publisher of the Crown Publishing Group. For the past year, she was president of publishing strategy at Macmillan.