MEDIA
06/13/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Jane Friedman Out At HarperCollins: Total Media Surprise

The only thing clear about the sudden resignation — or "resignation" — of HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman is that it took the media totally by surprise. The NYO book reporter Leon Nefaykh reports that as recently as this past Saturday night she was quoted as saying "I love being CEO of HarperCollins! Write that down," yet Nefaykh's source at HarperCollins claims that Friedman's departure has been in the works for some time. Meanwhile, Sunday's New York Post ranked Friedman #11 on its list of "The 50 Most Powerful Women In NYC", describing her thusly:

(11) Jane Friedman, 62, CEO, HarperCollins. The driving force behind the publishing house that tops $1 billion yearly- helped this year by "The Dangerous Book for Boys," which inspired multiple knockoffs. The children's division had the highest numbers for the sixth consecutive year. This summer's big releases: Jennifer Haigh's "The Condition" and Richard Clarke's "Your Government Failed You."

She was two behind Barbara Walters and clocked in ahead of Liz Smith, Cindy Adams, Kelly Ripa, Beyoncé Knowles, Robin Roberts, and all the "Sex and the City" girls.

Mediabistro's book-publishing blog Galleycat says that to so-called "rumblings" about first quarter performance for 2007 were "awfully quiet"; Gawker notes that she doubled profits in her first few years after coming to HarperCollins in 1997 after 29 years at Random House.

Gawker, which first reported the rumor, is the only place so far framing this as the result of a conflict with Rupert Murdoch over the firing of Judith Regan, which was triggered by the outcry over planned publication of the infamous O.J. Simpson book, If I Did It, which later became a best seller. Friedman fired Regan, rumors that Regan was an anti-Semite started circulating, Regan sued NewsCorp on a variety of counts, and they settled. (Gawker has more here.)

Still, that's news from 2006, and the suit was settled in January. That's a pretty long time for absolutely no rumors to get out, even in the form of hushed gossip amongst publishing types. (Also, Gawker's source claims that Murdoch wants to fire Roger Ailes, too, which seems particularly unlikely. Regan's name definitely comes up in most accounts of the departure, though.)

Particularly if the Regan-Murdoch-Friedman rumors are true, it's especially odd that no one seems to know anything. Look for a New York magazine article getting to the bottom of it on the horizon.

p.s. A note: Katie Couric, Diane Sawyer and Meredith Vieira were all left off that NYP list. Odd.


Jane Friedman Out at HarperCollins: If Anybody Knows Why, They Ain't Saying
[Galleycat]
Jane Friedman Out As HarperCollins CEO, Brian Murray Taking Over [NYO]
HarperCollins Chief Executive Resigns [NYT]
HarperCollins Chief Was Aggressive, Awkward [Gawker]

Requisite disclosure: I have met Jane Friedman twice, and the second time she didn't seem to remember having met me the first time. So I can say with confidence that she had absolutely nothing to do with me signing my own book deal with HarperCollins.