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HarperCollins axes Regan imprint

ReganBooks' Century City office is to close. Some staffers will stay with the parent firm.

January 18, 2007|Josh Getlin and Scott Timberg | Times Staff Writers

HarperCollins has closed the book on Judith Regan's publishing business in Los Angeles.

The publishing arm of media giant News Corp. said Wednesday that it would close ReganBooks as of March 1, after a short-lived run on the West Coast.

Regan, who had enthusiastically promoted the relocation of her imprint from New York to Century City, was fired last month amid accusations that she made anti-Semitic comments during an argument with a HarperCollins attorney. She has denied making those statements and has vowed to file a lawsuit against the company.

Her troubles began last November when she promoted the aborted O.J. Simpson "confessional" book and TV deal, a project that was canceled by News Corp. amid heavy public criticism.

"It was obvious that we couldn't and wouldn't want to continue with the Regan name," said Michael Morrison, president and publisher of Harper / Morrow, which is part of the publishing giant.

Regan's attorney, Bert Fields, said the closure "doesn't surprise me," and he blamed it on "bitterness" toward Regan by HarperCollins Chief Executive Jane Friedman. "They didn't see eye to eye on many things."

Key staffers of ReganBooks will return to HarperCollins in New York, including Cal Morgan, who was Regan's No. 2 and who was named editorial director after her firing; and Cassie Jones, executive managing editor and senior editor. Ten other employees will be let go.

HarperCollins, like ReganBooks, has an editorial office on the 20th Century Fox Studios lot, and "this gives us enough of an L.A. presence," Morrison said.

The only book under contract to ReganBooks to be canceled will be "7: The Mickey Mantle Novel," by Peter Golenbock, a so-called inventive memoir of the New York Yankee slugger, Morrison said. The decision was made this week together with the author, he added.

Golenbock's book, which reportedly included fictional sex scenes between the Hall of Famer and Marilyn Monroe, had sparked fierce debate within HarperCollins, and it was the topic of the discussion during which Regan allegedly made the offensive remarks, HarperCollins officials have said.

In promoting her move to L.A., Regan had said that it was important for a New York publisher to have a strong physical presence in L.A., to reach out more directly to West Coast authors and Hollywood.

Morrison, however, said that was no longer part of the company's strategy: "We have plenty of West Coast authors on our list already, and having a physical office in a particular location doesn't give you any more advantage, in this age of the Internet, with agents obviously submitting manuscripts all around the world."

An interim logo, HC, will be used on all ReganBooks published through the summer, Morrison said, and the HC logo will then be discontinued, with remaining books from the discontinued imprint distributed to other imprints within the HarperCollins organization.

Even before Wednesday's announcement, literati in L.A. and New York had wondered if Regan's imprint had a future here without her. Many in L.A. reflected that ReganBooks' presence had made scarcely any impression on the city during its brief tenure here.

Bonnie Nadel, a well-connected L.A. agent who represents David Foster Wallace, Rebecca Solnit and other writers, said she had neither met with nor spoken with anyone from ReganBooks after the imprint set up shop in Century City.

"It was sort of bizarre that they were here and nobody knew it," Nadel said. "If they had left quietly, no one even would have noticed."


Timberg reported from Los Angeles, Getlin from New York.

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