Saturday, January 20, 2007

HarperCollins Pulls the Plug on ReganBooks

Yesterday's New York Times reported that HarperCollins is going to close down ReganBooks, the eponymous imprint started by Judith Regan, the publisher who struck the book deal with O.J. Simpson.

The publisher also laid off ten employees in the Los Angeles office of ReganBooks. Five senior staff members, including Cal Morgan, editorial director of the imprint will move to the New York office of Harper Collins, while the publicity director, Suzanne Wickham, will remain in Los Angeles, along with her assistant.

Regan was fired on December 15th. The Times reports that books scheduled for publication through August by her now defunct imprint will carry an interim logo. After August, books contracted by ReganBooks will be published by other HarperCollins' imprints. Michael Morrison, the president of HarperMorrow, said about one hundred books will be impacted.

One book contract has been cancelled. This was the book, 7: The Mickey Mantle Novel by Peter Golenbock. The manuscript has drawn criticism because Golenbock created events and dialogue out of whole cloth.

In an interesting move, Judith Regan released a press statement yesterday in which she expressed gratitude to Rupert Murdoch "for the opportunity and to the ReganBooks staff who worked by my side to build a great publishing list." Murdoch's News Corporation owns HarperCollins.

If you're interested in seeing a copy of Fred Goldman's lawsuit against O.J. Simpson plus a copy of Simpson's contract with ReganBooks, go here.

According to the lawsuit, Simpson's attorney, Leonardo Starke, set up the corporation into which HarperCollins paid the $1.1 million dollar advance he was paid for his book If I Did It. Starke is the only director of Lorraine Brooke Associates, Inc. Goldman alleges that Lorraine Brooke Associates is a shell corporation formed for the purpose of helping Simpson "avoid paying creditors like Goldman." The names "Lorraine" and "Brooke" are the middle names of Simpson's two children.

Fred Goldman, of course, won a judgment against Simpson in 1997 in a civil case. Goldman's new lawsuit claims that he has been unable to collect on that judgment because Simpson has sheltered his assets and income.

The contract with ReganBooks describes the book this way:

UNTITLED CONFIDENTIAL PROJECT by O.J. Simpson, being a first person narrative in the voice of O.J. Simpson, which offers a hypothetical account of how Mr. Simpson could theoretically have accomplished the murder of his wife and Ronald Goldman had he, in fact, committed the crime, containing details concerning the events leading up to the crime, what Mr. Simpson's thoughts, feelings and motives would have been, and characters and situations involved that would only be known to Mr. Simpson, and debunking the various flawed theories proposed by L.A. prosecutors and others about the crime, . . .

One last interesting note: Jane Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins, co-signed the contract between ReganBooks and Lorraine Brooke Associates, making it clear that HarperCollins knew EXACTLY what Judith Regan had contracted for with Simpson.

The Times repeats what has been said before in this blog: "ReganBooks moved to Los Angeles from New York last year to satisfy Ms. Regan's desire to integrate book publishing with television and movie projects. The move was also viewed as an effort by Ms. Regan to distance herself from Jane Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins, with whom she had a testy relationship." The assumption is that Regan was referring to Friedman in her inappropriate comments about a "cabal" that was against her (Regan).

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