Richard E. Snyder, 90, passed away; Taking Simon & Schuster to new heights

Richard E. Snyder, 90, passed away;  Taking Simon & Schuster to new heights


Richard E. Snyder, the domineering publishing executive who built Simon & Schuster into the nation’s largest book publisher, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 90 years old.

The cause was heart failure, said his son Matthew, who lives in California and moved his father there after his health declined from sepsis and other problems.

Through boundless ambition, tenacity and gut intuition, and without ever becoming a voracious reader, Mr. Snyder helped transform a New York-based industry of clubby literary connoisseurs into a global enterprise dominated by conglomerates run by celebrity moguls. is made of.

He acquired several companies including Macmillan and major educational publishers. He has authored Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, former President Ronald Reagan, Rev. ,

And he listed Alice Mayhew, Michael Korda, Jim Silberman and Nan Tallis as top editors and then typically deferred his professional judgment.

Mr. Snyder, who stumbled into book publishing as a young college graduate, began working at Simon & Schuster in 1960. He was its chairman from 1975 to 1986, chief executive from 1978 to 1994, and chairman from 1986 to 1994.

By 1994, annual revenue had grown from $40 million in 1975 to $2 billion. During his tenure, the company’s trade book division won at least half a dozen Pulitzer Prizes.

Regarded as a dynamo inside the publishing industry, Mr. Snyder was perhaps best known to the public for two high-profile episodes: his bitter divorce in 1990 from Joni Evans, whom he had hired at Simon & Schuster and Who became a trailblazer for him. women in a male-dominated publishing culture; and his abrupt dismissal from Simon & Schuster in 1994 following the company’s purchase by Viacom.

Deep in debt from the purchase, Viacom began divesting itself of the subsidiaries that Mr. Snyder had acquired to succeed Simon & Schuster.

Mr. Snyder was recognized by his signature tinted aviator glasses, his barely readable handwriting, his Brooklyn accent and his temper. While some former employees remembered him as a valuable mentor – Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein characterized him as “avant-garde” – Mr. Snyder never won any personality contests.

“There’s a tendency to see only the dark side of Dick,” Mr. Korda, a friend and colleague for decades, said in a telephone interview, “but he really was a visionary who somewhat revolutionized publishing. He was quite The revolutionaries were innovators and led the way in turning book publishing from a privately owned cottage industry into a real business in which people could work and make a living.

In his book “Another Life: A Memoir of Another People” (1999), Mr. Korda wrote of Mr. Snyder, “He was like a tightly wound spring, and to those who knew him, he was often himself Seemed to be holding back. An outburst of anger fueled by a strong will.

“One even inferred that his bark and his bite were likely to be equally unpleasant,” Mr Korda said, “especially when it comes to poor preparation or sloppy work or reluctance to go the extra mile. “

Charles Hayward, who left Simon & Schuster to become president of Little, Brown, was quoted in the New York Times Magazine in 1995 as saying that “using insults and humiliation to control people is Dick’s Was part of the style.”

But Paul D. Neuthaler, former chief executive officer of Bantam Doubleday Dell and a former colleague, said in an interview that Mr. Snyder was “a brilliant publisher and my favorite tough guy and mentor.” And Susan Kamil, who worked for Ms. Evans at Simon & Schuster and later joined her at Random House, was quoted by New York magazine in 1987 as saying that Mr. Snyder “taught me everything – Not just business lessons, life lessons – and I will be forever grateful.

In a statement issued after Mr. Snyder’s death, Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein, whom Mr. Snyder hired to write his landmark Watergate-era books, “All the President’s Men” (1974) and “The Final Days” (1976) was listed. ), said: “We chose to publish with Dick because of his commitment to unvarnished truth and his promise that he would accompany us wherever the Watergate story took us.”

Richard Elliot Snyder, better known as Dick, was born on April 6, 1933, in Brooklyn to Jack and Molly (Rothman) Snyder. His father owned a men’s overcoat business.

After attending Adelphi Academy in Brooklyn and graduating from Tufts University in 1955, he was drafted into the Army. He had hoped to join his father’s apparel company, but, as he told Roger Rosenblatt for a 1995 The Times Magazine profile, when he showed up for work, his father showed him the door and said, “A Better son than companion.”

When a friend went to an interview at Doubleday’s in Manhattan, Mr. Snyder tagged along, and was soon hired as an intern. In 1958 he was named assistant marketing director after demonstrating that he was one of the few people at Doubleday who knew the exact number of books that had been published, ordered, sold and returned in a given period. – an ability he compared to his father’s spirit. For the value of the fabric for the overcoat.

“He could rub the material of a jacket between his thumb and forefinger,” Mr. Snyder said in The Times Magazine profile, “and in no more than a second, announce ‘$3.34 a yard.’ That would be perfect for Penny. I had the gift of experience when it came to books.

In the atmosphere Mr. Snyder helped to create, he presented himself as a businessman rather than a scholar. As Mr. Korda said, ‚ÄúThere is no law that says publishers must read books; Dick had a wonderful instinct for trusting his editors.”

Mr. Snyder’s three other marriages, to Ruth Freund, Laura Yorke and Teresa Liu, also ended in divorce. In addition to his son, Matthew, from his marriage to Ms. Freund, he is survived by a daughter, Jackie, from that marriage; two other sons, Richard Elliot Snyder Jr. and Coleman York, from his marriage to Ms. York; and two grandchildren.

Mr. Snyder flourished under the ownership of Simon & Schuster by Gulf and Western Industries, which bought the company in 1975. Mr. Snyder, a Gulf & Western assistant, quarrels with him. At one point Mr. Davis declined her advice to invest in an educational publisher that was being offered at a fire sale price.

After being fired by Viacom, Mr. Snyder formed an investment group that acquired Western Publishing and its children’s publishing division, Golden Books, in 1996. But turning the company around proved problematic and it was sold.

At Norman Mailer’s request, Mr. Snyder was instrumental in reviving PEN International, which promotes literature and free expression, and helped establish the foundation that presents the National Book Awards.

Mr. Snyder never denied that he was a strict taskmaster, but, he said, he did not demand more of others than he did of himself.

He told The Times in 1979, “Ninety-nine percent of the people in this industry are highly intelligent, so that quality is no different.” “The people who succeed have the greatest commitment. Maybe it’s the insane commitment I’m looking for, the guy who’ll spend the last five minutes doing something. You want someone who does something that impossible and then worries the next day that he can’t repeat it.

Increasing his introspection, Mr. Snyder reveals another aspect of his unstable behavior, which he attributes to his upbringing as a hyperactive only child and sketchy student with parents who He was raised in a home devoid of books, whose primary passion was playing gin rummy.

“I was quite a rebel, and I think my parents thought I was going down the wrong path,” he said. “They were very lenient, and seem to wish they had exercised more authority. I can remember going to ‘Annie Hall’ with Johnny when it opened. When Woody Allen gets ticketed by a cop , then he tears it up and says, ‘It’s not your fault, I just can’t deal with the authority.’

“I poked Johnny and said, ‘That was me.’



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