Children’s book publishing mogul leaves $ 1.2 billion business to Toronto woman instead of her family

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That Scholastic CEO Richard Robinson left everything to Iole Lucchese rather than his ex-wife, two sons or siblings is causing alarm, family drama and possible legal action

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The unexpected death of the head of the children’s book publishing giant behind Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Clifford the Big Red Dog produced his own surprise ending: he left control of his $ 1.2 billion business. dollars and all his possessions to the chief strategy officer, a woman from Toronto with whom he is said to have been romantically involved.

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The fact that Mr. Richard (Dick) Robinson Jr. left everything to Iole Lucchese rather than his ex-wife, two sons or four siblings is the cause of alarms, family tragedies and potential high-stakes lawsuits, which is more than enough for a sequel to any story, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal.

Robinson, 84, was in excellent health and still overseeing day-to-day operations as President and CEO of Scholastic Corporation when he passed away suddenly in June while walking through Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Lucchese, 54, was born in Toronto, the daughter of teachers and a graduate of the University of Toronto.

She landed her first full-time job working with Scholastic Canada Book Clubs, a cherished part of the childhood of many Canadians, who distributed inexpensive book catalogs to children in classrooms and held school fairs. book to school.

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Unexpected and shocking

In Robinson’s will, signed in 2018, he described Lucchese as “my partner and closest friend,” according to reporters Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg and Shalini Ramachandran, who reviewed the will.

Robinson and Lucchese were in a long-term romantic relationship that many believed had ended, the WSJ reports.

Robinson’s youngest son Maurice (Reece) Robinson, 25, told reporters his father’s decision was “unexpected and shocking”, while his eldest son John Benham (Ben) Robinson, 34, told reporters describes succession and succession as “salt in a wounded.”

“You might think from the will that he didn’t see his sons. This is not true. Over the past two years I’ve seen him several times a week, ”said Reece Robinson.

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The family say their father and mother, Robinson’s former wife Helen Benham, had recently become close again during the pandemic.

Robinson met his ex-wife, Benham, at Scholastic when she was working in the art department, but they didn’t start dating until the 1980s, according to the WSJ. She has worked for more than three decades in the company and served on its board of directors for a while. They divorced in 2003, and she left the family business.

“I lived and breathed Scholastic while raising our two children. Dick told me more than once: ‘You care more about Scholastic than I do,’ ”she told reporters.

The National Post did not receive a response to a request for comment from Scholastic or Lucchese before the publication deadline.

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Despite the 30-year gap between them and the shock of his family, the situation does not appear to be a blatant case of a lover bizarrely getting a family business at the expense of an established family succession plan.

Lucchese worked at Scholastic for 30 years after his debut at the company’s Canadian Book Club. In Toronto, she took over as the head of the Canadian division’s publishing and marketing group before moving to Scholastic’s New York headquarters, according to her company bio.

She was appointed Chief Strategy Officer of Scholastic in 2014 and was appointed Executive Vice President in 2016.

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Scholastic’s website credits him with modernizing the business for the digital age, expanding partnerships, and relaunching Scholastic Entertainment to develop characters from books to films and television.

Robinson’s two sons had limited involvement in the business.

Ben Robinson runs a sawmill and workshop that makes furniture and wood products from the trees in Martha’s Vineyard and lives off the land, according to the WSJ. Reece Robinson did not work full time at the company, telling the newspaper: “I did not want to sacrifice my 20 years to work in a company.”

In a corporate hierarchy reshuffle last month in response to Robinson’s death, Peter Warwick, who served as an independent director on the company’s board of directors for seven years, was appointed new president and chief executive officer.

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Lucchese has been appointed chairman of the board.

A new company director was also named in the reshuffle: Robert Dumont was a representative of the Robinson family, the company said. He is a lawyer specializing in tax and estate planning.

At the time of Robinson’s death, the company’s board of directors expressed sorrow and praised his passion and advocacy for literacy.

“Dick was a true visionary in the world of children’s books and a tireless advocate for children’s literacy and education with remarkable passion all his life. The directors and employees of the company, as well as the many educators, parents and students whose lives he touched, mourn his loss.

Scholastic calls itself the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books.

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The company was founded by Robinson’s father, Maurice R. (Robbie) Robinson in 1920. She started out as a magazine publisher in Pennsylvania and published her first book in 1926. Classroom book forms began in 1948.

Its first international branch was in Canada, which opened in 1957.

Robinson succeeded his father in 1974.

In addition to signing the US rights to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, Scholastic released the popular Suzanne Collins series The Hunger Games.

In 1963, Scholastic released the first book featuring Clifford the Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell, a character who became an endearing childhood favorite and has a new live-action feature set to premiere next month. at the Toronto International Film Festival, but was recently postponed.

Other popular book series from Scholastic include Captain Underpants, The Magic School Bus, The Babysitters Club, and Goosebumps.

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