Dick Gottlieb, 1939-2021
From Publisher Shannon Gilligan:
I first met Dick Gottlieb almost 40 years ago. He was a “publishing buddy” of Ray’s (my husband and the CYOA co-founder R. A. Montgomery). It was 1982. He and his terrific wife Leslie McKenzie were raising a family and running a small, growing reference book publisher, Grey House, out of their kitchen in Sharon, CT.
In truth, through the decades, Dick was one of Ray’s closest friends and a lifelong confidant. We traveled together, argued politics (Dick had lots of common sense but was a tad more conservative than Ray), celebrated family milestones, ate lots of good meals, and always talked shop. Dick reveled in Ray’s exceptional success as Ray became one of the world’s bestselling children’s authors. This wasn’t always the reaction of people you “knew before." But it was consistent with Dick’s central goodness and generosity that he cheered his friend on and aided him whenever he could. When the rights to Choose Your Own Adventure came back to Ray in the early aughts, Dick again stepped up to cheer our decision to go it alone, eschew “Big Publishing," and relaunch the series ourselves.
Over the years, no matter how busy Grey House became (by this time he and Leslie had a staff of over 100) Dick stood at the ready with advice and answers to any publishing question we had. Can you get good color printing in the US? How do you amortize inventory? Would you let a notoriously dishonest foreign publisher have your print files? (No.) It got so that in staff meetings, if we didn’t know the answer to a question, people would learn to inquire “Have you asked Dick?” He even watched our backs when we weren’t around. Dick would go out of his way at book trade shows to stop by our booth, even if neither Ray nor I were in attendance, and invite everyone to whatever party or dinner he was attending that night. He made our initial introduction to Barnes & Noble, whose first large order was what essentially bootstrapped us into existence. Thus I knew the reactions were genuine when some of that same staff expressed their disbelief, shock, and sadness at news of his passing last week. Dick was valiant and gracious to the end through a difficult health battle at the height of the pandemic.
I think successful businesses are made of many things – vision, hard work, some luck, a bit a capital, and a guardian angel or two, like Dick Gottlieb.
Goodbye old friend. Thank you for everything. May the wind be at your back. Love to Ray.