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Faber to sell wine list to Mitchell Beazley

Venerable UK publishing house Faber and Faber is hoping to sell its list of wine books to dynamic food and drink publisher Mitchell Beazley.

The publishers have reached preliminary agreement that Mitchell Beazley will buy the list of more than 30 titles.

Faber’s titles include such classics as Burgundy by Anthony Hanson and The Wines of California by Stephen Brook. It also launched Malcolm Gluck’s Superplonk books, though Gluck is no longer with them. Mitchell Beazley’s titles include the World Atlas of Wine and Hugh Johnson’s annual pocket guides.

Although there is no official confirmation from either publisher, the first concrete notice was given on Tuesday this week when Faber’s finance director, David Tebbut, wrote to Faber authors.

‘Given Mitchell Beazley’s pre-eminence as a publisher of wine books, and their tremendous enthusiasm for the list, we feel they are an ideal home for the titles and an excellent opportunity for our authors,’ he said.

The deal is expected to be signed soon but is conditional on the authors’ consent to transfer the rights, as the letter says.

While both Faber and Mitchell Beazley remain tight-lipped as to the reason for the sale, it’s understood the wine list has suffered recently from lack of focus. Although Julian Jeffs is still the out-of-house series editor, it lost its in-house editor early last year when the company’s MD Toby Faber, a member of the founding family, left the company. He had made the wine list his own responsibility and acted as editor, and no one afterwards was found to take it on.

A company insider told decanter.com that the list required a lot of detailed attention, but with only two new titles a year could not justify a full time editor.

Faber authors themselves have been dissatisfied with the care the list has received. Some have complained about a paucity of illustrations, dull jackets, high cover prices, and perceived absence of marketing. ‘Faber really lost interest in the list,’ one said. ‘Nobody was really running that department for quite a long time. They published a lot of titles but they didn’t really sell them energetically.’

Another eminent wine writer and Faber author considered people would be enthusiastic for the move, and said, ‘Maybe this will give the list a new lease of life.’

  • Patrick Matthews is author of The Wild Bunch: Great Wines from Small Producers, published by Faber and Faber.

    Written by Patrick Matthews23 May 2002

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