That’s the big question today in the publishing world, which was collectively stunned last night when it was reported that Jane Friedman had resigned as the CEO of HarperCollins after 10 years on the job and handed the reins of the company over to her 41-year-old deputy.
Did Ms. Friedman, who is 61, see Peter Olson’s recent resignation from Random House and subsequent appointment to the faculty of the Harvard Business School and think, ‘Gosh, that sounds nice”? Or did she make her exit in anticipation of a terrible fourth quarter?
Right now nobody knows, and many are puzzling over Ms. Friedman’s exuberant behavior over the weekend at the Book Expo convention in Los Angeles. Ms. Friedman gave no indication over the weekend that she was planning to leave. At one point on Saturday she walked over to the Random House booth in the convention center to meet with that house’s brand-new CEO, and later that night, at the height of a party she hosted on the Twentieth Century Fox lot, she pulled a reporter aside and exclaimed with no apparent irony, “I love being CEO of HarperCollins! Write that down.”
As far as we can tell, not even the publishers who report to Ms. Friedman– those are the people who run the individual divisions at HarperCollins–knew that this was coming. One told us last night, before we confirmed it with a source close to Ms. Friedman, that it was probably a joke; another said this morning, when asked to speculate about Ms. Friedman’s motivations, “I wish I had an answer.”
Also curious is how a rumor about Ms. Friedman’s departure made its way onto Gawker.com–if so few people knew about it, the leak had to have come from pretty high up. This is strange because the leak was not supposed to happen: According to the source we spoke to last night, Ms. Friedman was not planning to announce or enact her exit so soon.
More on this later today.