The Times and the Wall Street Journal have day two stories on Jane Friedman’s abrupt exit from HarperCollins; both have interviews with Brian Murray, the new CEO, who says News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch, who has owned the publishing house for about 20 years, first summoned him about a promotion on Monday. An unnamed Times source says Ms. Friedman didn’t discuss vacating her post with Mr. Murdoch until two days later, a couple of hours before Gawker.com floated a rumor that she’d been fired.
In the Journal, Mr. Murray reiterates what he told his staff at yesterday morning’s marketing meaning—that he talked to Mr. Murdoch and was assured that HarperCollins is not going up for sale. "He told me that the company won’t be sold, that HarperCollins is a content company and that News Corp. is a content company," Mr. Murray is quoted as saying.
Why this is all happening now is no clearer today than it was the other night when the news first broke. HarperCollins insiders have emphatically assured Media Mob that fourth quarter results will be very good. And Gawker’s theory, that Murdoch wanted Ms. Friedman out because he resented her for firing his number one moneymaker Judith Regan, doesn’t ring true because, well, why would he act on that resentment now? There is a notion that Murdoch felt compelled to wait until after Ms. Regan’s wrongful termination suit, filed last November, was over before pulling the trigger, but that suit was settled in January! Why would Mr. Murdoch have waited until now if that’s what was motivating him?
So maybe it’s true what HarperCollins is saying, that Ms. Friedman did leave her job so she could spend more time with her family and pursue new career opportunities. But it seems like virtually nobody in the HarperCollins building believes that, and there is reason to think that while an eventual resignation was on Ms. Friedman’s mind, the leak out of News Corp Wednesday night compelled her to make the move now instead of in November, when her contract was due to expire.
The fact is though, all that could well be true, and we’d still be no closer to understanding why HarperCollins has a new CEO.
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