Book publishing legend Sonny Mehta, editor-in-chief of Knopf and chairman of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, has died at the age of 77.
Knopf confirmed Mehta’s passing to CNN Business; Mehta’s brother-in-law, Naveen Patnaik, tweeted he was “deeply grieved … He was one of the world’s best editors and an extremely civilized person.” Knopf said the cause was complications from pneumonia.
Mehta became editor-in-chief of Knopf in 1987. During his time as its head, Knopf published Nobel Prize winners, including Toni Morrison and Kazuo Ishiguro. He published the memoirs of world leaders including Pope John Paul II and Tony Blair. He also acquired bestsellers, including the “Fifty Shades” novels, which took the first three spots on the bestselling novels of the decade list, according to NDP BookScan.
Prior to joining Knopf, Mehta had an impressive career in London. He worked at Rupert Hart-Davis and then joined Granada Publishing, where he cofounded Paladin Books. In London, he worked with authors such as Germaine Greer, Jackie Collins and Douglas Adams.
“He was a friend to writers, editors, and booksellers around the world,” Knopf said in a statement. “Mehta was also a gentleman, uniquely so, who cared deeply about his colleagues and the work with which he entrusted them. He was a beloved figure at Knopf, working at the only career he ever wanted. He lived a life in books, of books, and for books and writers.”