Less than three months after publisher Judith Regan filed a $100 million lawsuit against her former employer HarperCollins and its parent company News Corp., a check has been cut and the suit has been killed before it even started.
No word yet on how much News Corp. is paying Ms. Regan, but according to a press release News Corp. issued around 2pm., a settlement has been reached. "The parties are pleased that they have reached an equitable, confidential settlement, with no admission of liability by any party" the statement reads.
In her spectacular 70-page suit (read all about it here), which also named HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman, Ms. Regan alleged that she had been fired and stripped of her eponymous imprint under false pretenses and then strategically defamed in the press by News Corp.
A source close to Ms. Regan and familiar with the negotiations told The Observer at the time of the filing that Ms. Regan was offered a $6.5 million settlement in August but turned it down. Bert Fields, Ms. Regan’s lawyer, said at the time: "We told them their number was unacceptable. They were warned in advance that she was going to file if they didn’t increase the settlement offer they’d made and they responded that they were not going to increase it by one dime. And as a result she filed."
According to another source familiar with the case, Mr. Fields– an entertainment lawyer based in Los Angeles– was the driving force behind the negotiations that led to today’s settlement.
Reached by phone today, Mr. Fields said he could not comment on the sum News Corp. had agreed to pay Ms. Regan. "I gave my word that I wouldn’t comment on the settlement beyond what’s in the statement and I’m going to keep it," Mr. Fields said. He would not say whom he gave his word to.
In addition to Mr. Fields, Ms. Regan has also been working with Bay Area attorney Joe Cotchett of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy. When Ms. Regan filed her lawsuit in November, she was to be represented in litigation by Brian Kerr of the Manhattan firm Dreier LLP, but she dismissed him and hired Mr. Cotchett instead sometime around New Year’s. Mr. Fields confirmed that he’d been working with Mr. Cotchett. A call to Mr. Cotchett’s office was not returned.
The official reason given for Ms. Regan’s December 2006 firing from HarperCollins was that she’d made some anti-Semitic remarks to a company lawyer– something she denied at the time and has continued to ever since. News Corp. is now backing off of the notion that Ms. Regan made any anti-Semitic remarks: "After carefully considering the matter, we accept Ms. Regan’s position that she did not say anything that was anti-Semitic in nature, and further believe that Ms. Regan is not anti-Semitic."
Regardless of how Ms. Regan feels about Jews and whether she made any disparaging remarks about them, it was plain enough when she was fired that the real reason for her termination was that she’d become too much of a liability to HarperCollins and News Corp. after all the controversy she had attracted by agreeing to publish If I Did It, O. J. Simpson’s semi-confession to the murders of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown, and Peter Golenbock’s 7, a fictionalized account of Mickey Mantle’s life that was criticized by some early readers as pornographic.
Ms. Regan argued in her suit that she was made a scapegoat for these scandals, and that the O. J. Simpson book had been greenlighted by her superiors, including Ms. Friedman and News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch.
Ms. Regan also claimed that certain News Corp. executives– she wouldn’t say which ones, and she still hasn’t– took steps to discredit her in order to protect the presidential campaign of Rudy Giuliani, whose friend, the disgraced former police commissioner Bernie Kerik, Ms. Regan had had an affair with. Ms. Regan claimed to have evidence that one News Corp. executive had told her to keep quiet about Mr. Kerik if she was questioned; many have speculated that this evidence– whatever it was– would compel News Corp. to settle instead of allowing the case to go to trial.
Newsweek reported shortly before Christmas that Ms. Regan was having "conversations" with News Corp. and brandishing some kind of "tape recording" that "presumably helps to buttress her allegations in her suit." None of the unnammed "media executives" cited in the Newsweek story would say what was on the tape, but four of them said top-level executives at News Corp. were aware of it.
Here’s the full press release from News Corp.:
NEW YORK, NY, January 25, 2008 – Judith Regan and News Corporation announced today that they have settled her lawsuit arising from the termination of Ms. Regan’s employment in December of 2006. The parties are pleased that they have reached an equitable, confidential settlement, with no admission of liability by any party.
News Corp. said, "After carefully considering the matter, we accept Ms. Regan’s position that she did not say anything that was anti-Semitic in nature, and further believe that Ms. Regan is not anti-Semitic."
News Corp. also said, "Ms. Regan is a talented publisher who created many award-winning and bestselling books during her twelve and a half years at the company. News Corp. thanks Ms. Regan for her outstanding contributions and wishes her continued success."
Ms. Regan said, "I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many gifted people and am looking forward to my next venture.