Everyone seems nearly as confused in the aftermath of Jane Friedman's departure from atop HarperCollins as they were in the frantic hours before the official confirmation. But it looks increasingly like the CEO was elbowed aside. Friedman's deputy and successor, Brian Murray, has disclosed he was summoned to a meeting with Rupert Murdoch Wednesday and unexpectedly offered her job. But Friedman didn't discuss her departure with Murdoch until two days later, on Wednesday, according to a Times source "familiar with her situation." If true, that would signal Murdoch wanted her out. Perhaps the HarperCollins pipeline looked weak; Leon Neyfakh at the Observer raised the possibility of "a terrible fourth quarter." Still, there are all sorts of conflicting signals.
Michael Morrison, now president of HarperCollins' North American books division, told the Times Friedman had been talking about moving on from HarperCollins for "several weeks," indicating she either knew what was coming or left of her own volition. He brushed aside a theory, floated by a Gawker source, that Murdoch held some sort of grudge over Friedman's role in the squelching of an OJ Simpson book and the departure of Judith Regan, although the Times said others in the company wondered Thursday about the Regan incident.
But statements by Murray in the Journal hint that money, ultimately, may have been at the root of Friedman's departure, just as it had been for her peer Peter Olson at Random House. Murray said Murdoch assured him News Corp. wasn't looking to sell HarperCollins, but "that he wanted to see new growth." And that is now Murray's top priority:
In the interview, Mr. Murray said that his primary task will be to add revenue growth, the same challenge now facing Markus Dohle, the new CEO of Bertelsmann AG's Random House publishing empire. "We're looking to invest in the business, we're hiring, and we're looking to identify new opportunities," said Mr. Murray. Areas of interest include children's publishing, where Mr. Murray said he expects to make additional investments.