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Powell's in the Press

Contact: Kim Sutton

Powell's Books to Remain a Family-Owned Business
Plan to Transition Ownership to Emily Powell Is Underway

April 12, 2006, Portland, OR —Powell's Books, one of the largest, most innovative, independent booksellers in the world, has remained a family-owned, business for the past 35 years, in the face of unprecedented competition and the evolution of bookselling on the internet. While many speculated about the company's future, since owner Michael Powell is now 65, a recent email release to all employees specifically detailed a transition plan for transferring ownership to his daughter, Emily, over the next four to six years.

Despite several offers over the years to purchase the company, Powell has remained focused on his goals and the purpose of Powell's to be a different kind of bookstore. "My wife, Alice, and I have long had the goal to keep Powell's independent, local, and under the stewardship of a passionate bookseller. We are both deeply pleased that our daughter Emily has made a commitment to Powell's," his email stated.

Emily Powell has worked for the company for the past two years in the area of business development for the company's internet division, preparing for increased responsibility in the company. On May 1, she will begin broadening her experience in the company as the Director of Used Books, learning about Powell's core competency and clear point of distinction compared to other booksellers.

While Emily Powell is excited about the plans for her to manage Powell's Books, she is realistic about the challenges 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. Although Michael Powell will ultimately relinquish control of the business decisions to Emily, he won't be leaving the book business any time soon and says, "he might enjoy hanging out in the warehouse pricing books."

Powell's roots began in Chicago, where Michael Powell, 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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