The owner of $1.2BILLION Scholastic Corp. – which publishes books like ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ and ‘Magic Schoolbus’ – died suddenly in early June and shockingly left the company to a past flame who works in the company.
M. Richard Robinson Jr., who died suddenly on June 5 during a walk in Martha’s Vineyard, left the the company to Iole Lucchese, the company’s strategy officer; not either of his sons, siblings or ex-wife, The Wall Street Journal reported
She also inherited all his personal possessions, according to the The Wall Street Journal, which reviewed the 2018 will that outlined the succession plan, which family members are reportedly unhappy about.
Family members and former colleagues said Robinson, 84, and Luccesse, 54, it was an open secret that they were in a longtime romantic relationship, but said they believed the couple broke up years ago.
Robison said in his 2018 will that Lucchese, who has been with the company for more than three decades, is ‘my partner and closest friend.’
Scholastic Corp. publishes some of most-well known titles like ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘Clifford,’ ‘Magic Schoolbus’, ‘Captain Underpants,’ among others.
Family members told the paper that they’re reviewing their legal options.
Richard ‘Dick’ Robinson (left) gave the $1.2billion Scholastic publishing company to longtime flame and colleague Iole Lucchese (right)
Richard Robinson, chairman, president and CEO of Scholastic, rear, holds the first signed US edition of the book ‘Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince’ during its unveiling in New York, Friday, July 15,2005
Maurice Robinson, 86, founder and chairman of Scholastic Magazines Inc. (left) pictured with his son M.Richard Robinson Jr., the firm’s president and chief executive officer
Robinson’s death stunned everyone. Although he was 84, he was said to be in good shape.
The company issued this statement afterward: ‘We are deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Dick Robinson.’
‘Dick was a true visionary in the world of children’s books and an unrelenting advocate for children’s literacy and education with a remarkable passion his entire life. The Company’s directors and employees, as well as the many educators, parents and students whose lives he touched, mourn his loss.’
He left behind two sons – Maurice ‘Reece’ Robinson, 25, and John Benham ‘Ben’ Robinson, 34 – his ex-wife and mother of his boys Helen Benham, and siblings: Sue Robinson Morrill, Barbara Robinson Buckland, Florence (Dover) Robinson Ford and William (Bill) Robinson.
Reece Robinson, who’s done documentary work, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that it was ‘unexpected and shocking.’
‘What I want most is an amicable outcome,’ Ben Robinson, who operates a sawmill and workshop that produces lumber, flooring and furniture from trees in Martha’s Vineyard and lives off the land work, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
He told the paper that he never met Lucchese until they spoke about his dad’s estate last week and said this was ‘like salt in an open wound.’
‘We expect to have a collaborative approach with the estate,’ he said without elaborating.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Robinson and his ex-wife Benham became good friends again during the pandemic.
Robinson and Benham met at the company after she started worked in the art department in 1974, but they didn’t date until the 1980s, the Wall Street Journal reported.
They married in 1986, had their two sons together and finally split in 2003. That’s the year she also left the company.
Before that she told the Wall Street Journal that she ‘lived and breathed Scholastic while also raising our two children.
‘Dick told me on more than one occasion, “You care more about Scholastic than I do.,”‘ she said.
They rekindled their friendship during pandemic, when she said her ex-husband had been worked 12-hour days by himself in the company’s NYC headquarters.
‘His only breaks were weekends on the Island (Martha’s Vineyard), which he called paradise,’ according to his obituary.
He seemed to be reconnecting with his ex-wife and his kids.
He was ‘was spending all of his time not working with us. Not only weekends but regular nights with us in Manhattan. He was coming back to the family,’ his obituary reads.
‘While he had no plans to leave Scholastic, he expressed a strong desire to work less and spend more time with his family on the Vineyard, where he was most at ease and happiest.’
While she declined to talk about Lucchese, she told the Wall Street Journal, ‘I was shocked and we were not expecting this.’
J.K. Rowling (L) and Richard Robinson attend HBO’s ‘Finding The Way Home’ World Premiere at Hudson Yards on December 11, 2019
Scholastic president and CEO Richard Robinson speaks onstage during the 2016 Eagle Academy Foundation Fundraising Breakfast at Gotham Hall on April 29, 2016 in New York City
Mary Sue Robinson Morrill, one of Mr. Robinson’s sisters, said in a written statement that she and her siblings agree ‘that 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.’
William Robinson, Richard Robinson’s younger brother, said in an interview that his brother and father wanted 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 told The Wall Street Journal .
‘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.’
Meanwhile, the woman who’s heading the company now has been there since 1991, when she became an associate editor in book clubs and moved up the ranks until se was named chief strategy officer in 2014, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Two years later she became sole president of Scholastic Canada and in 2018 she added the title of president of Scholastic Entertainment.
She’s a Canadian with a home in Ontario and a permanent US resident, according to an affidavit filed in New York Surrogate’s Court.
Former staffers told the Wall Street Journal that she and Robinson had ‘sweet’ and ‘contentious’ moments, where the battled in meetings about the direction of the company.
Former staffers said she wanted to expand the company.
Despite the public bouts, people who knew them say Robinson relied on her and she remained part of his inner circle, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The company declined comment.
Scholastic Corp. publishes popular children’s books like ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ and ‘Magic School Bus’