INDEPENDENT: Robert Bernstein: Publishing colossus who led Random House and founded Human Rights Watch
Added: 11/22/2019 6:57.00 Views count: 7
22 November 2019
The champion of writers such as Toni Morrison, Norman Mailer and Dr Seuss led a parallel life as a campaigner.
Robert Bernstein, who has died aged 96, bestrode the publishing industry for more than two decades as the chief executive of Random House and who helped to pry open closed societies around the world as the founding chair of Human Rights Watch.
At 6ft 3in tall, with freckled features and a low-key leadership style, Bernstein began his career as a junior office boy at Simon & Schuster and rose to become the president, chief executive and chair of America's most renowned publishing house.
Under his direction, Random House expanded into the world's largest general-interest publisher, increasing revenue from $40m in 1966, when he was named president, to more than $800m in 1989, when he was forced into retirement.
The company added paperback divisions, enlarged its textbook and nonfiction offerings, and negotiated a lucrative distribution deal with smaller publishers, including Warner Books and Reader's Digest Press.
As the industry was transformed by corporate consolidation and a growing thirst for bestselling titles, Bernstein retained Random House's reputation for literary excellence – as well as what The New York Times once described as "the rambling quirkiness of a large bookstore run by somebody with a passion for books".