Enough about the Scott McClellan book: whatever happened to Lady Jane? It takes a lot to shock the gossip-heavy publishing industry, but last week's announcement that Jane Friedman was ceding control of HarperCollins to Brian Murray definitely qualifies as a bona-fide surprise. The much-admired—if occasionally, in these pages and elsewhere, tweaked for her outsize, self-promotional personality—Friedman was as close to a sure thing as publishing had: a book world lifer who made the numbers work. (Except for the first quarter of this year, when everybody's business was hurting, her 10-year tenure at HarperCollins has been successful.) She has also been an unabashed, amazingly energetic ambassador from our world—she once told me she goes to four book events most nights. When many 60-something book world lifers tend to be just a little bit hidebound, Jane (like Cher or Madonna, a one-name diva) was always truly game: Digital initiatives? Check. China? Likewise. India? Ditto.

The company line, such as there is one, is that Friedman had been thinking about stepping back for some time, and that she had approached her News Corp bosses with a secession plan that would play out over a few months, always with Murray taking her place. (The morning after the announcement, Morrow division chief Michael Morrison and Harper U.K. CEO Victoria Barnsley were elevated to share Murray's old position.) But the speed at which it all happened—leak on Gawker, press release not sent to journalists but posted online, and Friedman's exit by noon the next day—suggests there was, as one insider put it, “some incident.” When Friedman addressed her staff on Thursday morning she was very emotional but said a very bad cold, not weeping, explained her teariness. No one believed her.

So what happened? Theories, of course, abound—she was finally taking the heat for last year's Judith Regan/O.J. Simpson debacle; she'd angered News Corp's Rupert Murdoch by asking questions about a rumored sale to Bertelsmann—but by all accounts she was her usual enthusiastic self at BEA, expecting to return to further negotiations on her contract, up in November. Why her bosses acted otherwise—and who said what first—remains unclear.

The other things nobody knows, of course, are (a) what will Friedman do next (forget retirement; me, I vote for a Phyllis Grann—like über-job at another house); and (b) what will happen now that Murray, by all accounts a smart, affable and talented guy, is in charge. He's not the razzle-dazzle personality Friedman is, but then, neither was David Young when he took over for showman Larry Kirshbaum three years ago at Warner-now-Hachette, and that business is going better than most. I can't help notice, though, that we now have two major houses—Random House and HarperCollins—being run by members of a new generation, and I don't just mean that they're young—new Random CEO Markus Dohle is 39; Murray, 41. More importantly, both of the new guys have come up through printing, or systems and business side of books; neither has books in his blood, at least not the way Friedman did. Is this what the book business needs now?

That, ultimately, may be the only question that matters.

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