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Publishing Mystery: Why’d Jane Go?

Some found her unfair at London Book Fair.

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Did Jane Friedman’s imperiousness lead to the HarperCollins CEO’s sudden exit two weeks ago? Her hasty firing of tabloid-book queen Judith Regan in 2006 led to a pricey lawsuit and the loss of one of the house’s best earners. But another, previously unreported dustup occurred more recently, at the London Book Fair, which company insiders point to as an example of how Friedman wielded her power. HarperCollins had planned to fête one of its writers, Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany, in its booth. But Friedman moved the cocktails elsewhere, allegedly because Friedman said she considered him too anti-Israel. The people at Harper’s U.K. division fought the decision, to no avail. “He’s not a radical that way,” explains one bemused source. A source close to Friedman says the author’s “political views were not a factor,” and that the party was moved because Friedman prefers, as a rule, not to have book parties at the booth. The source adds that Al Aswany never came up in Friedman’s fateful talk with Rupert Murdoch; she was also told her ouster had nothing to do with Regan.

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