Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Launches New Leadership Team

Associate Editor

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt this week announced seven major changes, creating a 13-member executive leadership team under new president and CEO Jack Lynch, as the public company works to make improvements in student outcomes, and in its financials.

The team for the global publisher and content provider now includes two general managers of curriculum—one for core curriculum and the other for supplemental—as well as chief officers of learning, marketing, and information. Two of the seven changes in its executive leadership team are internal promotions.

The changes come as the company has undergone a 2017 organizational restructuring that resulted in $33 million in charges for the second quarter of the year, including severance and termination benefits of $14 million. As part of its second-quarter earnings report, company officials announced a net loss of $168 million in the first half of 2017.

That loss was 13 percent—or $26 million—less than the net loss of $194 million for the same quarter of 2016, according to the company.

Among those newly named to the key positions on curriculum are Jim O’Neill, the executive vice president and general manager of core curriculum, and Matthew Mugo Fields, the executive vice president and general manager of supplemental curriculum.

O’Neill worked most recently at Achieve3000, and previously at HMH, Pearson and National Geographic. Fields, who has in the past worked at McGraw-Hill Education, is founder of ed-tech startups Redbird Advanced Learning and GiftedandTalented.com.

Two of the executive leaders in new positions joined HMH as part of the company’s 2015 acquisition of Scholastic’s EdTech Business: Rose Else-Mitchell, in a new role as executive vice president and chief learning officer, will focus on the efficacy of HMH’s programs and services to drive student outcomes; and Amy Dunkin, who was named senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

The other executive appointments include Alejandro Reyes as senior vice president and chief people officer; Trish Torizzo, senior vice president and chief information officer, and Vicki Boyd, executive vice president and general manager for Heinemann, which is HMH’s professional development publishing arm. Under Boyd’s leadership, Heinemann will continue its mission of developing and growing teachers, the company said, a division that has had “12 straight years of growth.”

Lynch was named president and CEO in February, after leading Renaissance Learning since November 2012.

In the release about the new HMH team, Lynch said,  “This group brings the right balance of K-12 teaching and learning experience and customer-centered innovation to the table to deepen HMH’s longstanding position as a leading core curriculum provider and to expand and diversify our portfolio in faster-growing segments within intervention, supplemental curriculum, and professional services.”

Content Development Investments

Late last year, HMH said its failure to create new reading programs for California’s English/language arts adoption was a misstep contributing to its 3 to 4 percent loss of share in the domestic market.

This year, the company expects to invest between $140 million and $150 million in content development for next-generation curriculum products, which are launching in 2017 and next year ahead of large adoption opportunities, said Abbott on a second-quarter conference call in August. 

Abbott also reported that higher commissions to HMH’s sales force, which had a strong performance in the second quarter, resulted in the company paying $7 million more in incentive compensation compared to the same period last year.

Asked how much of the company’s sales were digital, Abbott said it’s “north of 40 percent. While it’s a metric that HMH tracks, it’s not one that drives its overall strategy because the percentage can fluctuate by state, by year, and by subject, he added.

“We remain committed to our strategy of investing in our core K-12 basal offerings to take advantage of large opportunities in 2018 and beyond, as we approach the next cyclical peak in the market,” Abbott said, according to a transcript of the company’s second-quarter conference call from Seeking Alpha.


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