Publisher in O.J. book scandal fired
Judith Regan made gossip columns, which is rare for a book publisher.
NEW YORK (AP) -- O.J. Simpson's would-be publisher, Judith Regan, was fired Friday, her sensational, scandalous tenure at Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. ending with the tersest of announcements.
"Judith Regan's employment with HarperCollins has been terminated effective immediately," HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman said in a statement. "The Regan publishing program and staff will continue as part of the HarperCollins General Books Group."
Regan's firing comes less than a month after Murdoch's cancellation of Simpson's hypothetical murder confession, "If I Did It," a planned book and Fox television interview that was greeted with instant and near-universal disgust when announced.
An industry force since the 1980s, when she produced best-sellers by Drew Barrymore and Kathie Lee Gifford for Simon & Schuster, Regan has been labeled a "foul-mouthed tyrant" and the "enfant terrible of American publishing." She is also widely envied -- if not admired -- for her gift of attracting attention to her books and to herself.
Since 1994, she has headed the ReganBooks imprint at News Corp.'s HarperCollins, an ideal fit for Murdoch's tabloid tastes. Regan has published a long list of racy best-sellers, including Jose Canseco's "Juiced" and Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star," and is the rare publisher of interest to gossip columnists, notably for a rumored affair with former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.
She often clashed with her more temperate peers and is widely believed to have had tense relations with Friedman. Last year, Regan moved her offices to Los Angeles, further distancing herself from corporate officials in New York.
Regan has often complained that her more literary side has been overlooked, pointing out that she has published books by Wally Lamb, Douglas Coupland and novelist Jess Walter, whose "The Zero" was a finalist for the National Book Award in November. The Simpson project, announced the day before the awards ceremony, quickly overshadowed the nomination.
Editor Fired After Uproar Over Simpson
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 15 — Judith Regan, the firebrand editor who stirred up decade-old passions last month with her plan for a book and television interview with O. J. Simpson, was fired on Friday by HarperCollins, the publishing company that oversaw her book business.
HarperCollins announced the firing, “effective immediately,” in a two-sentence news release that was issued about 7 p.m. Eastern time. The announcement was made by Jane Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins, who has long had a strained relationship with Ms. Regan.
The statement said Ms. Regan’s publishing unit and its staff would continue as part of the HarperCollins General Books Group, but it is unknown whether that group would remain in Los Angeles, where Ms. Regan moved it from New York earlier this year.
It is also unclear whether Ms. Regan has been terminated wholly from any employment with the News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s giant media company, which owns HarperCollins. Over the years, Ms. Regan has gained a growing amount of sway within the corporation because of her ability to generate profits from books and other ventures.
In recent years, she has helped to produce television series and specials like “Growing Up Gotti,” a series about the children of the crime family don John Gotti, which was broadcast on the A&E cable channel. Ms. Regan served as an executive producer of that program and others, including a television special with Jenna Jameson, the adult film actress whose best-selling memoir, “How to Make Love Like a Porn Star,” was published by ReganBooks.
Typical of Ms. Regan’s ability both to enrich and infuriate those who did business with her, Ms. Jameson later sued Ms. Regan over rights to a proposed reality television series featuring the actress.
The news about Ms. Regan’s firing was announced in a news release issued by HarperCollins even before it was transmitted to Regan employees in Los Angeles. Suzanne Wickham, the director of publicity for ReganBook, said employees had not been notified of the development before a reporter called to ask to speak to Ms. Regan.
Executives at HarperCollins and the News Corporation in New York and Los Angeles did not return phone calls seeking additional comment.
In late November, the News Corporation canceled its plans to publish a book and broadcast an interview with Mr. Simpson in which he was to give an account of how he might have murdered his former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ronald L. Goldman.
That decision followed a week of ferocious criticism. Critics called for boycotts of advertisers who might sponsor the television broadcast on the Fox network and several Fox affiliate stations announced that they would refuse to carry the program.
In addition, television talk show hosts like Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel — which, like Fox, is owned by the News Corporation — were vocal in their opposition to the telecast; and various bookstores said they might not stock the book, which was titled “If I Did It.”
The book was to be published by ReganBooks, also owned by the News Corporation.
But Ms. Regan defended her decision to publish the book, saying that she believed she had extracted a confession from Mr. Simpson to the slaying of his former wife. But Mr. Simpson denied that possibility, saying his words had been wrenched from their context.
Although copies of the book have been offered for sale on the Internet, HarperCollins has worked to keep the book from being made public, and no copies of the text have yet surfaced on the Internet or elsewhere. Nor has anyone outside of Fox been known to have seen the videotape of Ms. Regan’s interview with Mr. Simpson, except for a snippet that was posted briefly on the Fox Internet site as part of the promotion for the television show. That footage was removed after Fox decided to cancel the special.
Ms. Regan has continued to court controversy even after the O. J. Simpson incident. Publishers Weekly, a trade journal, reported this week that a planned book about Mickey Mantle, the New York Yankee baseball player, was drawing stunned reactions within the publishing world over its questionable content.
The book, titled “7: The Mickey Mantle Novel,” is by Peter Golenbock, a longtime sports author, who referred to the book as an “inventive memoir,” according to Publishers Weekly. An article about the book said that people who had read preliminary copies described it as containing long passages describing sexual activity and other inflammatory episodes told in Mr. Mantle’s voice, but which were not authenticated.