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An Open Letter to the Subscribers and Friends of Heldref Publications

Several months ago, Taylor & Francis, the UK-based publishing company (with its US headquarters in Philadelphia), submitted a non-binding letter of intent to purchase 37 titles from Heldref Publications. After a period of discussion and  due diligence, Heldref agreed to transfer the ownership of 37 journals and magazines to T&F, a complete list of which can be found below. As  discussed later in this announcement, we will retain and continue to publish two titles, World Affairs and Demokratizatsiya.

Three years ago Heldref faced a crisis. Since then, we have managed to reverse a rapid decline. We did so by dramatically reducing and upgrading staff, streamlining procedures, renegotiating contracts, and modestly increasing our prices. In addition, we developed new revenue streams and enhanced others. In the end, we cut well over a million dollars in annual expenses; restructured, upgraded, and dramatically reduced our staff; and overhauled our electronic/online platform. But still, in spite of our efforts to revitalize the organization and publications, we have not been able to muster the leverage required to penetrate the libraries and library consortiums that would stabilize and build the critical library subscription base--a base that has declined, evenly and relentlessly, for 25 years. So, while we were able to successfully forestall a disaster for the present and for the years immediately ahead by slashing expenses and adopting efficiencies, it appears inevitable that our library subscriber base will continue to erode year after year as it gives way to industry realities and trends, leaving us with little hope of sustaining, much less growing, our revenues.

Our decision to sell them now comes after a long and detailed assessment of industry trends and realities, as well as our ability to compete effectively in this environment to sustain and expand these titles. The hard reality is that the continuing industry consolidation has made it increasingly difficult, perhaps impossible, for small and independent publishers to exercise the leverage necessary to grow, or even sustain, their core revenue source--the library subscriber base.

Thus, as I have explained to the staff, we were faced with a choice of a slow-motion-type death march as our subscriber base shrinks us into nonexistence, or to accept an offer to purchase our publications. We chose to accept the offer for several reasons. One, because the proceeds are sufficient to allow us to continue meaningful nonprofit education work. Two, because the proceeds are sufficient to allow us to provide a generous severance package to about 35 full time staff members who will be laid off, a package that will go a long way to support them through the transition to come.

The third reason we decided to sell these journals and magazines is because the new owner is immeasurably better equipped to expand the horizons and influence of these publications than are we.  Taylor & Francis is a $350 million company founded in 1798. It publishes more than 1,500 journals. They know how to grow publications, and they have the leverage in the industry. They are serious, capable, and competent at what they do. T&F will grow HP's portfolio in ways that are well beyond our range of possibilities. The sale is certainly a good thing for the publications.

I am fully confident of T&F's good intentions with respect to developing these publications to allow them to reach their full potential. I would add that T&F has agreed to honor all existing contractual obligations with respect to the EE's editorial prerogatives, as well as other obligations with associations and editors, as they may apply. I am confident that T&F has no intention of closing, ceasing, or terminating a publication. On the contrary, I expect T&F to work with the editorial teams to not merely sustain, but also to grow these journals in every respect. After you review T&F's Web site--and consider their stature, their leadership in the industry, and their vast institutional capacity--I expect that you will conclude as we have that this sale is a good thing for the publications and for those affiliated with them.

After the sale, Heldref Publications will be restructured, remade, and renamed. Our mission will honor the work and legacy of two of its founders, Jeane and Evron Kirkpatrick. The details are yet to be determined. We will remain an educational nonprofit, but our focus will narrow to promote American engagement around the world in issues of diplomacy, democratic development, and the protection of human rights. We envision that we will award grants and scholarships, as well as conduct programs that advance the mission outlined above. We will retain a handful of current staff members. We will continue to publish World Affairs and Demokratizatsiya.

I would like to conclude by thanking the many staff, editorial and production partners, and contributors who have worked with HP for these many years. We have been honored and privileged to associate ourselves with you and your work. We are  indebted to you and we thank you.

I hope you will find an excuse to stay in touch with us. And, if I can ever be of service, please let me know.

With respect, gratitude, and best wishes,

James Denton
Executive Director
Heldref Publications

©2010 Taylor & Francis Group