The late owner of Scholastic Corp., the publisher of iconic children’s books like “Harry Potter” and “Magic Schoolbus,” reportedly cut his family out of his will — leaving the company and his personal fortune to his former lover.
M. Richard “Dick” Robinson Jr., who died suddenly on June 5 on a walk in Martha’s Vineyard, left the $1.2 billion company and his personal possessions to his “longtime romantic partner” Iole Lucchese, who’s also Scholastic’s chief strategy officer, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The Journal reviewed a copy of the 2018 will, in which the late Robinson described Lucchese, who’s been at the company for some 30 years, as “my partner and closest friend.”
Some family members told the Journal that they’re unhappy about the century-old publishing house, which has always been controlled by the Robinson family, falling into the hands of an outsider.
They’re also upset about Lucchese having control over the Robinson’s personal possessions, the Journal reported.
The disgruntled family members are now reviewing their legal options, with the possibility of cutting a deal with Lucchese to transfer some Scholastic voting shares to family members or to ensure they get a greater share of the estate, the Journal reported.
Maurice “Reece” Robinson, the late Robinson’s youngest son, told the Journal that the handing over of Scholastic to Lucchese was “unexpected and shocking.”
“What I want most is an amicable outcome,” the 25-year-old said.
Robinson’s elder son, John Benham “Ben” Robinson, 34, told the Journal that he had never met or spoken with Lucchese until the family held a call with her last week to discuss the will.
Ben Robinson, who operates a sawmill and workshop that produces lumber, flooring and furniture from trees in Martha’s Vineyard, told the Journal that the estate plans “served as salt in an open wound.”
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.”
Mary Sue Robinson Morrill, one of the late Robinson’s sisters, echoed that message and said she’s confident Lucchese and current management share the family’s views.
She told the Journal “our first goal is the continuation of the mission and legacy of Scholastic, the vision and brilliant lifework of both our father and our brother Dick, and we are confident that the new management of the company is fully committed to this goal.”
Under the will and revocable trust, Lucchese is now the sole beneficiary of 53.8 percent of the company’s Class A shares, which hold the majority of voting power, the Journal reported.
She’s considered the owner of some three million Scholastic shares, according to the Journal.
A company spokesman told the Journal that the common shares that belonged to the late Robinson, worth around $70 million, won’t ultimately be owned by Lucchese.
Details regarding any debt or tax obligations related to the estate couldn’t be learned, the report said.
The will named Lucchese as a co-executor of his estate along with Andrew Hedden, Scholastic’s general counsel, according to the report.
She has sole discretion over whether to distribute Robinson’s personal possessions to his two sons, according to the will, “with the request, but not the direction” that she hand out items “as she believes to be in accordance with my wishes,” the Journal reported.
“You might think from the will that he didn’t see his sons,” the younger Reece Robinson said. “That’s not true. For the last two years I saw him multiple times a week.”
Some people close to the late Robinson said he spoke about how he had to earn his stripes as a young worker in the company, while neither of his sons has made a career there, the Journal reported.
Lucchese, on the other hand, has been at Scholastic since 1991, when she became an associate editor in book clubs and moved up the ranks until becoming chief strategy officer in 2014, according to the Journal.
In 2016, she became president of Scholastic Canada and in 2018, she also became president of Scholastic Entertainment.
Former staffers told the Journal that she and the late Robinson had occasional arguments about the direction of the company and her desire to expand the firm through e-commerce.