Richard Snyder, a visionary and imperious Simon & Schuster leader who boldly presided over the publisher’s exponential rise in the second half of the 20th century and helped define an era of consolidation and growing corporate power , is dead. He was 90 years old.
Snyder died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles, according to his son Matthew Snyder, who said he was in poor health.
“Dick Snyder led Simon & Schuster through some of its richest and most eventful years,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “He made Simon & Schuster one of the world’s largest and most influential publishing houses, known for its front-page nonfiction, best-selling fiction and timeless classics. “
Snyder was among those who helped transform the industry. When he joined Simon & Schuster as a sales assistant in the early 1960s, the publishing houses were mostly private, some still run by their founders. By the time it was kicked out by Viacom in 1994, Simon & Schuster and rivals such as Random House and HarperCollins were under corporate ownership and had bought out many former competitors.
Chairman of Simon & Schuster Inc. from 1975 and CEO from 1978 to 1994, Snyder built a modern company in a way that was sometimes too modern for the world of books. Simon & Schuster’s revenues grew from about $40 million a year in the 1970s to over $2 billion in the mid-1990s, making it the world’s largest publisher at the time. country, a position now held by Penguin Random House.
Bestsellers during Snyder’s reign included crime thrillers by Mary Higgins Clark and Pulitzer Prize winners such as David McCullough’s “Truman” and Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove.” Snyder was also an early advocate of electronic publishing and the computerization of business operations, and he greatly expanded Simon & Schuster by buying educational companies such as Prentice Hall and Esquire Inc., spending over a billion dollars in total in acquisitions.
“You can no longer be a publisher without also being a businessman,” Snyder told The New York Times in 1984. “The idea that you can publish just because you like books is a sure prescription for failure. “
Those who knew him couldn’t stop talking about him. The New Yorker called him a “warrior king” and former Simon & Schuster editor Robert Gottlieb recalled his “Ahab-like determination to see Simon & Schuster overtake Random House”. Colleagues who left the company shared stories of his profane, high-volume tirades, although Gottlieb notes that “this notoriously difficult man could command loyalty, respect and even affection”. Another Simon & Schuster editor, Michael Korda, wrote of Snyder’s “over the top” commitment to literary fiction — because “most of them lose money.”
Simon & Schuster published Philip Roth, Graham Greene, and Joan Didion, among others, and Snyder played a direct role in making the company a favorite house for inside story on Washington. In the fall of 1972, as the Watergate scandal took off, Snyder personally lobbied Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein for a book about their groundbreaking journalism, which became “All the President’s Men.” He met them at the Hay-Adams Hotel in Washington on a day when they had gotten a key fact wrong about President Nixon’s chief of staff, HR Haldeman, and convinced them to publish with Simon & Schuster – even if a rival offered more money.
“Dick looked us straight in the eye and he was very direct and I felt we would have his full support,” Woodward told The New York Times in 1992. “I was right. If he ever dodged or flinched or blinked, I would have said. But he never did. He’s brave. He cares. He always does what he says he will. And he’s tough, tough, tough.
Released in June 1974, two months before Nixon’s resignation, “All the President’s Men” was a landmark in American publishing, a book-length investigative work on a sitting president and his administration. It spent months on bestseller lists, was adapted into an Oscar-winning film of the same name, and helped launch a wave of timely political releases — including Woodward and Bernstein’s coda on the Nixon years, “Final Days” – which has continued until now. day.
“With unerring instinct, Dick made ‘All the President’s Men’ not only newsworthy, but topical,” Korda wrote in his 1999 memoir, “Another Life.” “It was what the French call ‘news’, real-time news.”
Woodward and Bernstein recalled Snyder as an editor who always supported them.
“Dick was brave and he was tough – a visionary who understood that, like our great Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee, the buck stops with him – and he would never waver, even under threats of a sitting president,” they said. in a joint statement on Wednesday. “That commitment also extended to an enduring friendship as a mentor and avuncular presence for us throughout Dick’s life.”
Simon & Schuster eventually signed the memoirs of fallen Nixon officials such as John Dean, John Ehrlichman and John Mitchell, as well as books by Nixon himself and Ronald Reagan, whose memoirs were published just months before Simon & Schuster only publish the famous “Nancy Reagan, by Kitty Kelley”. which implied that the former first lady had an affair with Frank Sinatra. Woodward stuck with Simon & Schuster for decades, its long string of #1 sellers, including Trump-era “Veil,” “Plan of Attack,” and “Fear.” Some of the country’s most popular historians, including McCullough and Pulitzer winner Doris Kearns Goodwin, were longtime Simon & Schuster authors.
Snyder grew and fell under the hard and fast rules of corporate culture. His power grew even as the company changed owners and organizations several times, but shortly after Viacom bought Simon & Schuster in 1994, he was fired for not being a “team player”. “and his career never recovered. He attempted to revive the children’s publisher Golden Books, for which he worked early in his career, but the business went bankrupt and was sold within a few years.
Snyder also endowed a lecture series at his alma mater, Tufts University, with Woodward among the speakers. In the late 1980s, he helped found the National Book Foundation, a non-profit organization, which awards the National Book Awards.
He had four children and was married four times, most recently to Terresa Liu Snyder whom he later sued, alleging she took millions of dollars from him and left him in dire financial straits. .
Snyder’s most notable marriage was to fellow publishing executive Joni Evans, along with their decade as one of the industry’s top power couples – Korda would call them the ‘Prince Charles and Lady Di’ of the world of the book – ending in a very public divorce in the late 1980s.
Born in Brooklyn, Snyder would be remembered as a poor student in a house with no books who expected to join his father’s overcoat business. When his father fired him, he instead found work as an intern at Doubleday, where his immersion in the numbers and fine print of contracts set him apart. Within two years he was at Simon & Schuster. Doubleday fired him, he later told The Times, for “telling them how badly they were doing everything.”