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Powell's in the Press

Contact: Kim Sutton

Emily Powell Will Lead Powell's Books into the Future
Plan to Transition Bookseller's Management Is Underway

April 12, 2006, Portland, OR — Emily Powell is poised to continue the legacy of family-owned Powell's Books, one of the world's largest and most innovative independent booksellers for the past 35 years. Ms. Powell will eventually operate the company, which was founded by her grandfather, Walter, and owned and managed by her father, Michael, for the past 27 years.

On May 1, Emily will begin work as the Director of Used Books, a move that will provide her with the experience and knowledge necessary to manage the company's core competency, buying and selling used books. The news was announced in a company-wide email that detailed the transition plan, alleviating speculation about the fate of this legendary Portland, Oregon, business.

Preparing for increased responsibility in the company, Emily has worked at for the past two years as a business development specialist; but she has been involved with the company her entire life, from her days as a toddler riding around on book carts in the stores, to a summer job shelving books in the westerns section.

After attending Haverford College in Pennsylvania, where she earned a degree in urban planning and design, Ms. Powell decided to set out on her own, working first as a pastry chef and then as a real estate analyst in San Francisco. Emily says, "My parents always encouraged me to engage in work and activities outside of the family business to broaden my perspective of the world." Now her focus has turned back to her family's business, and her parents' goals of keeping Powell's Books "an independent bookstore under the stewardship of a passionate bookseller."

While some speculate about the outcome of third generation business transitions, Ms. Powell has a tremendous support network that includes Powell's management, her parents, and the community. The announcement in Portland newspapers generated much mail from the community, congratulating Emily and wishing her well. Whether by design or not, she is surrounded by a supportive, primarily female management team that has watched her grow from a child into a smart, capable businesswoman. In addition to long-term planning, with the help of a business advisor to guide the transition process, Emily's mother, Alice, is involved in all transition and management meetings, using her training as a therapist to help address the emotional components of the process.

While Emily is excited about the plans for her to manage Powell's Books, she is realistic about the challenge and responsibilities that lie ahead: "I have a lot to learn and some big shoes to fill." She will take time over the next few years to gather information and form her own goals and vision for the future of the company. Emily is especially looking forwarding to working more closely with her father during this time. "The opportunity to learn from my dad and build on our already strong relationship is wonderful and rare." Although Michael Powell will ultimately relinquish control of the business decisions to Emily, he will by no means disappear; he will just get back to the part of the business that he loves — the books.

Powell's roots began in Chicago, where Michael Powell, as a University of Chicago graduate student, opened his first bookstore in 1970. Encouraged by friends and professors, including novelist Saul Bellow, Michael borrowed $3,000 to assume a lease on a bookstore. The venture proved so successful that he managed to repay the loan within two months.

Michael's father Walter, a retired painting contractor, worked one summer with Michael in the Chicago store. He so enjoyed his experience that upon returning to Portland he opened his own used bookstore. Michael joined Walter in 1979, creating a bookstore with a unique recipe that, though viewed as unorthodox, worked: used and new, hardcover and paperback, all on the same shelf, open 365 days a year and staffed by knowledgeable and dedicated book lovers.

Powell's Books, Inc., has nearly 500 employees, four general stores and two specialty stores in Portland, Oregon, and an award-winning website,

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