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Kleckner Out as Tokyopop Restructures

by Calvin Reid, PW Daily -- 1/26/2006

Steve Kleckner, v-p sales and distribution at Tokyopop, is leaving the manga publisher and about six others have been laid off as part of a restructuring. Kleckner said he was leaving the manga publisher and blamed his depature on "differences about where the manga market is going." Kleckner said he was leaving Tokyopop "on good terms." Before joining Tokyopop, Kleckner was a sales executive in consumer electronics for more than 15 years.

Mike Kiley, editor-in-chief of Tokyopop, confirmed Kleckner’s departure and “several” layoffs. He said Tokyopop has about 100 employees. Kiley described the changes as a “reorganization.” And while he declined to respond to Kleckner’s description of the manga market, he did say that“the manga market is maturing, it’s a different, more competitive landscape and growth is challenging. We have to make changes to keep the company profitable.”

During Kleckner’s tenure Tokyopop grew rapidly into arguably the leading American publisher of Japanese comics in translation. But in recent years as the licensing of Japanese manga has become more competitive, Tokyopop has been looking to publish more original, American generated manga material. Called Original English Language manga—comics heavily influenced by Asian manga but created by non-Asian artists—it is generally said to not sell as well as well as the licensed Japanese manga which continue to dominate the U.S. market.

But Kiley emphasized that Tokyopop's original manga program is doing well. He said that while the OEL program hasn't produced a huge bestseller like the licensed series Fruits Basket, "OEL books on average sell better than some of our licensed titles and all our OEL titles have solid sales number. This is just part of what we’re doing to transform the company."

This article originally appeared in the January 26, 2006 issue of PW Daily. For more information about PW Daily, including a sample and subscription information, click here »
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