Publisher Houghton Mifflin names new CEO
John J. Lynch Jr. arrives as company transitions to digital age
By Katheleen Conti, Globe Staff

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has named John “Jack’’ J. Lynch Jr. as the Boston publisher’s new chief executive.

Lynch, who holds a bachelor of arts degree from Boston University, was most recently CEO of Wisconsin-based Renaissance Learning, a K-12 educational software and analytics company owned by Hellman & Friedman and Google Capital.

He succeeds Linda K. Zecher, who resigned in September after five years at the helm.

“I am honored and excited to join Houghton Mifflin Harcourt as its CEO,’’ Lynch said in a statement Wednesday. “HMH is exceptionally well positioned to lead the education industry in the rapid transition to digital and highly personalized learning experiences.’’

L. Gordon Crovitz, a member of Houghton’s Board of Directors, will continue as interim CEO until Lynch takes office in a few weeks.

Lynch “brings an uncommon set of K-12 education and technology experience along with an outstanding track record generating exceptional returns for investors,’’ Lawrence K. Fish, chairman of Houghton’s board, said in the statement.

“He is the right leader at the right time as HMH and the education industry continue to transform and evolve.’’

The change at the top comes as the 185-year-old company transitions into digital products. Houghton emerged from bankruptcy in 2012 and launched an initial public offering of stock a year later.

Houghton reported sales of $1.1 billion in the first nine months of 2016 and an operating loss of nearly $60 million. It will release full-year results later this month.

Much of Houghton’s business is selling textbooks, but it also publishes the Curious George series and other children’s literature, cookbooks, and fiction, including the US editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.’’

Lynch has more than 25 years of management experience in the software and information industry and was the founding chief executive of, an online education network serving 40,000 schools.

He was later president and CEO of Pearson Technology Group, and prior to joining Renaissance Learning was a member of the executive board of Wolters Kluwer. At Houghton, he will also be president and a directors.

Katheleen Conti can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKConti.