Michael Viner has departed New Millennium as part of a bankruptcy-court agreement, and a trustee has been appointed to oversee the company in his place. The trustee, whose identity was not known at press time, will determine whether to continue operating the company or liquidate its assets, said an insider.
Viner, in the midst of a divorce with wife and business partner Deborah Raffin, termed the departure a resignation, and said that he made the decision voluntarily. "There were differences of opinion with my wife and other people [involved with the company]," Viner said.
He leaves a company that carries significant debt, including $2.8 million in damages from a lawsuit brought by Otto Penzler. The publisher filed for bankruptcy in September, not long after the Penzler verdict.
Penzler has said in the past that he would pursue Viner's private assets if he had to, while Viner said that his private money could not be touched now that he has severed ties with the company. Meanwhile, a lawyer for Penzler, Evan Glassman, said yesterday that the fight to obtain the damages would continue.
Viner is known for taking on controversial authors, and one of his most radioactive is Jayson Blair. The former NYT reporter's advance was solidly in the six figures, but despite tepid sales, Viner said yesterday, "we didn't lose any money on the deal."
The company is still expected to release its anticipated biography of Michael Eisner, by journalist Richard Hack. And despite his troubles, Viner said he will continue to serve as an agent for clients such as Larry King and that he will announce a "new affiliation" within the next few weeks.