Milwaukee-based 800-CEO-READ has announced that Jack Covert, founder and president of the company, has retired.
Through his leadership at 800-CEO-READ, Covert is responsible for inspiring profound changes in the business book publishing industry, a feat he was able to accomplish from the company’s location of Milwaukee, far removed from New York City’s publishing epicenter.
In 1984, shortly after Covert shut the doors on his first business venture as the owner of a small record store in Milwaukee – Dirty Jack’s Record Rack – he founded what would become 800-CEO-READ. The late A. David Schwartz, then owner of Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops, hired Covert to sell business and computer books to the Milwaukee business community via the brick and mortar bookshop. Covert grew what was then a three-shelf business section into the specialty business book retailer 800-CEO-READ is today.
Carol Grossmeyer, Schwartz’s widow and the company’s current co-owner, recalled Covert’s first days on the job, “A table, a chair, a phone, and a rolodex. David hired Jack, put him in front of a phone, and told him to start a business. Jack didn’t know a thing about business books or publishing, but drew on some kind of innate idea of business he had and ultimately became who he is today — a great, self-made businessman,” Grossmeyer said.
Grossmeyer remains the company’s CEO and general manager. Sally Haldorson will lead the day-to-day operations of the company. Covert will remain involved with the company in a consulting role.
800-CEO-READ counts business publishing’s biggest names and most successful authors as customers.
Seth Godin, bestselling author of Purple Cow, Tribes, Linchpin, and more, posted May 27 to his blog, “Jack Covert is one of the most important people in my little village of book publishing, a single individual outside the normal circles of New York, someone who cares and does something about it. Jack Covert relentlessly sees possibility when other people are ready to shrug their shoulders and walk away…Jack Covert is a role model for all the people who care. Not just who do their job, but who actually show up, every single day, eager to make a difference, eager to connect, eager to find something special. Jack reminds us of what publishing used to be and what it could be again. He’s a man of his word, someone with extraordinary vision and drive, and most of all, someone who cares. We’ll miss Jack. Every single day, this industry will be poorer because one of the great ones has retired.”
William Shinker, a 30-plus year veteran of publishing houses Penguin, Random House, and HarperCollins, said, “Jack has gone from innovation to innovation and built the company into THE premier marketer, seller, and community of business book lovers in the country. My relationship with Jack over the last 30 years has meant a great deal to me professionally and personally. He is a truly great guy, and a wonderful business man with the ability to make his dream a reality.”
“I’m most proud of helping 15 to 20 people start their lives. I have kids out there. Grandkids. Houses,” Covert said, referring to his employees and their families. “I helped them discover a depth of character they didn’t know they had.”