The late CEO of a $1.2 billion publishing firm left control of the company to an exec he'd had a relationship with, rather than his family. His son called it 'salt in an open wound.'

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The late CEO of a $1.2 billion publishing firm left control of the company to an exec he'd had a relationship with, rather than his family. His son called it 'salt in an open wound.'
Richard Robinson Jr. was the CEO and Chairman of Scholastic Corp., the US publisher of the "Harry Potter" books. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • The late CEO of Scholastic left the company to its board chair, his former lover, The WSJ reported.
  • Richard Robinson Jr. died on June 5. He left a controlling stake in the publisher to Iole Lucchese.
  • This means his family does not control the business. His son called it "salt in an open wound."

The late CEO of a $1.2 billion publishing house left control of the company to its chief strategy officer, with whom he'd had a long-term romantic relationship, rather than to his two adult children or four siblings, The Wall Street Journal reported.

His older son called it "salt in an open wound."

Richard Robinson Jr., the chairman and CEO of Scholastic Corp., which publishes the US versions of the "Harry Potter" books, died suddenly in June at age 84 while walking in Martha's Vineyard.

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In Robinson's 2018 will, viewed by The Journal, he left his 53.8% controlling stake in Scholastic to Iole Lucchese, the company's chief strategy officer. The pair had a long-term romantic relationship that was an open secret within the company, unnamed family members and former coworkers told the paper. They weren't in a relationship when he died, said unnamed former colleagues cited by The Journal.

In the will, Robinson also left all of his personal possessions to Lucchese, 54, whom he described as his "partner and closest friend," rather than to his two adult sons, four siblings, and ex-wife, the paper reported.

Robinson left about 3 million company shares, including 53.8% of its Class A shares, and more than 2 million common shares to Lucchese, a securities filing indicated.

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A spokesperson for Scholastic told The Journal that about $70 million worth of Robinson's common shares wouldn't ultimately be owned by Lucchese, although it's unclear who would inherit them.

Read more: Office romances can be tricky. Here's what to do if you find out an employee is in a secret relationship with a boss.

Lucchese, who started working for Scholastic in Canada 30 years ago, became chair of its board in July.

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Robinson's succession plan left some family members reeling: John Benham Robinson, the publishing mogul's older son, told The Journal that his father's will had "served as salt in an open wound." John, 34, said he spoke to Lucchese for the first time in late July about his father's estate, The Journal reported.

Some of Robinson's family members are considering legal action, unnamed sources close to the matter told The Journal.

Maurice Robinson, the younger son, told The Journal: "You might think from the will that he didn't see his sons. That's not true. For the last two years I saw him multiple times a week."

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Robinson's ex-wife, Helen Benham, also told The Journal that he'd grown closer to his family during the pandemic, spending "all of his time" away from work with her and their children.

Robinson's family wrote in his obituary that he'd "expressed a strong desire to work less and spend more time with his family on the Vineyard."

Scholastic did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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