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In an unfolding drama that could come from a blockbuster airport novel or a TV series, it has emerged that the late Dick Robinson, CEO of Scholastic which publishes Harry Potter in the US, left his controlling shares in the company and all his personal possessions to his former lover, the publisher’s new chair Iole Lucchese.

His family and many staff are shocked and surprised by the news, revealed by the Wall Street Journal which obtained a copy of Robinson’s 2018 will.  The paper reported that some of the family are looking at their legal options, while others are hoping that some sort of agreement for a transfer of some of the shares can be reached with Lucchese.

With its heady mixture of money and office romance, tabloid newspapers in the States have leapt on the story.  The New York Post said that Maurice “Reece” Robinson, the late Robinson’s youngest son, described the handing over of Scholastic to Lucchese as “unexpected and shocking.”

Robinson’s elder son, John Benham “Ben” Robinson, said that the news “served as salt in an open wound.”  The paper reported: ‘William Robinson, the deceased Robinson’s younger brother, told the Journal that the family’s priority is to keep Scholastic independent.  “Our family value was we’d rather not have the financial benefit that we might get from a sale if it means the company won’t be in the future what it was,” he said. “Everybody knows Scholastic and has a good feeling about it and it does good things for teachers. It’s more than just a business for us.”

Robinson died on 5 June at the age of 84, while on a walk in Martha’s Vineyard.  His company, founded by his father Maurice in 1920, is estimated to be worth $1.2 billion.  Dick Robinson remains

widely admired throughout the publishing industry, and has been recognized by major organizations including the National Book Foundation, which awarded him its Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the Literary Community in 2017, and PEN America, which honoured him at its 2019 gala.

Harry Potter creator JK Rowling described Robinson as “a wise, kind and humane man, who leaves behind him an extraordinary legacy in the world of children’s literature…I’m just one of thousands of children’s authors who were proud to be published by Dick Robinson, and I’ll miss him very much indeed”.