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Regan Declares War Against Murdoch?

WWW- Even though Judith Regan made a book publishing mistake of epic proportions when she commissioned O.J. Simpson’s “If I Did It,” few in the book industry thought she would lose her job over the incident. For all the volatility of her personality and penchant for attracting controversy, her commercial instincts were simply too valuable for HarperCollins to lose.’s Peter Lattman writes: A Law Blog reader pointed us to a fun twist in the story: Regan has published Fields’s two books on William Shakespeare, “Players: The Mysterious Identity of William Shakespeare,” published earlier this year, and “Royal Blood: Richard III and the Mystery of the Princes.” That’s right, in his spare time Fields moonlights as a Shakespeare scholar. Read the full Law Blog post.

That reasoning turned out to be wrong, and there is now more controversy to come. HarperCollins Worldwide, a unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., abruptly fired Ms. Regan in a terse announcement Friday night, shortly before the News Corp. holiday party. The publisher gave no reason.

But Ms. Regan is fighting back, hiring well-known Hollywood litigator Bert Fields. “They’ve chosen war and they will get exactly that,” said Mr. Fields in an interview. “She won’t take this lying down.”

Mr. Fields said HarperCollins had used guards to lock down Ms. Regan’s office and had also impounded her personal belongings. “We’ll take appropriate action for everything HarperCollins has done,” added Mr. Fields. “They chose this path and I hope they remember it.” A HarperCollins spokesman said that Ms. Regan collected her personal belongings before leaving her office in Los Angeles and that her office in New York wasn’t locked and that her belongings weren’t impounded.

Ms. Regan’s dismissal notice was issued by Jane Friedman, the CEO of HarperCollins Worldwide. News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, a longtime supporter of Ms. Regan, was informed of the firing in advance, according to a person close to the situation.[Photo]Judith Regan in her studio at Sirius satellite radio last month

Last month, Mr. Murdoch scuttled plans for Mr. Simpson’s book, a “confession” presented as a hypothetical which Ms. Regan had also packaged as a TV-special interview with News Corp.’s Fox Network. Mr. Murdoch also apologized to the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown-Simpson, for whose murders Mr. Simpson was acquitted. Ms. Regan maintained a low profile, and at the time, a person close to Mr. Murdoch said no one would be fired over the debacle.

But this past week, tensions flared, although details are still sketchy. One scenario has it that Ms. Regan made some intemperate remarks to a HarperCollins attorney on Friday afternoon, causing Ms. Friedman to fire her. The termination was executed with none of the usual corporate pleasantries about “pursuing other opportunities” and long years of service.

“It’s obvious that the anger in Jane Friedman has been boiling up for a long time,” said Laurence Kirshbaum, a New York literary agent. “Jane had told friends in recent weeks that the so-called O.J. week was probably the worst week of her career, because she had to defend something that I think she didn’t want to defend.”

Mr. Kirshbaum noted that it has been an open secret in the publishing industry that “the relationship between the two of them hasn’t been milk and honey.” A HarperCollins spokesman declined to comment on their relationship. Ms. Friedman was not available for comment. Ms. Regan couldn’t be reached for comment.

By some accounts, Ms. Regan stirred up resentment inside HarperCollins a week earlier, on Dec.8, when she sent an internal email to the publisher’s staff. It read: “Congratulations to the amazing and talented staff of ReganBooks. ‘Century Girl’ has been chosen by several organizations including Slate as the book of the year. We are also the proud recipients of a National Book Award finalist award for ‘The Zero’ a novel by Jess Walter. Both of these books were acquired by Judith Regan.”

Some viewed the email as not only ill-timed but self-congratulatory. “It was viewed as a poke in the eye, a reminder of how important she was,” says one HarperCollins executive. “Nobody was happy with it because everybody was already offended by the O.J. matter.”[Judith Regan]

Part of the email was also inaccurate. The online publication Slate cited “Century Girl,” a book built around Ziegfeld Follies star Doris Eaton Travis and written by Lauren Redniss, as one of the year’s best books — not the book of the year. “It was a total exaggeration,” says this HarperCollins executive.

Last Thursday, another of Ms. Regan’s books came under fire. Peter Golenbock’s “7: The Mickey Mantle Novel,” a ribald retelling of the late baseball slugger’s life, was ripped by the New York Daily News, which headlined its story: “Shameful New Book Pimps Mick.” News Corp., which owns the New York Post, is a fierce rival of the New York Daily News.

On the following day, Friday, Dec. 15, Ron Hogan, who co-edits, a book publishing industry blog, posted a story in which he described how Ms. Regan had invited him to discuss the Mickey Mantle book as part of her weekly radio show on Sirius Satellite Radio. Mr. Hogan wrote, and later confirmed in conversation, that during the show Ms. Regan complained that she was being unfairly targeted by the media. She also cited what Mr. Hogan described as “backstabbers” at HarperCollins, although she didn’t identify anyone by name.

“She was furious about the initial stories regarding the Mickey Mantle book and she said that there were people at HarperCollins who go to the media with negative stories about her and her books,” added Mr. Hogan in an interview on Sunday. A spokesman for HarperCollins declined comment.

A spokesman for Sirius said that Ms. Regan’s regular weekly show will be broadcast next Wednesday. “We never discuss a show that hasn’t aired,” he said.


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