- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 14, 2005

NEW YORK — Celebrity-book publisher Judith Regan, whose authors include Michael Moore, Amber Frey and Jenna Jameson, is moving her operation from New York to Los Angeles, where she plans to expand her brand in film and TV, Variety reports.

The move is part of a new five-year pact with News Corp.’s HarperCollins, which will increase its investment in Regan Media, including the publishing imprint ReganBooks.

Arguably the most successful publisher in the world, Miss Regan runs a small imprint with a huge hit rate. So far this year, ReganBooks — part of the HarperCollins empire — has notched 11 titles on the New York Times best-seller list, including four No. 1s in the space of six weeks.

Despite her reputation for celebrity tomes and sex guides, few other publishing houses can boast a hallway lined with best-sellers as varied as “American Soldier” by Gen. Tommy Franks, “Stupid White Men” by Mr. Moore and “How To Make Love Like a Porn Star” by Miss Jameson.

And even if you haven’t read any of the 100 or so books the company publishes each year, store shelves are filled with other books that have been influenced by what ReganBooks has published.

Even her critics describe her as the smartest woman in publishing. They also have a few more superlatives for her as well, if Vanity Fair magazine is to be believed.

In a radical departure from its usual fawning profiles of stars, the magazine gave Miss Regan, 51, the sort of raking over usually reserved for convicted felons. Titled “The Devil and Miss Regan,” the piece by Judith Newman painted an unflattering portrait of Miss Regan after Miss Newman talked to various friends, ex-friends and colleagues.

It mentioned Miss Regan’s long reputation as the enfant terrible of American publishing — a brash executive with a penchant for publicly ripping into the likes of Madonna and Monica Lewinsky. The story further denounced her as a “foul-mouthed tyrant” who ruled by intimidation, a woman who got where she is by trampling over everybody else.

Worse still, she enjoyed it, the article stated. It did say Miss Regan was very good at her job — surely that’s what matters to a boss such as Rupert Murdoch — but that’s little consolation.

“It was completely unfair and misrepresentative of all that I do,” Miss Regan says of the piece.

At least everyone can agree on her curriculum vitae. Raised in a poor Irish-Sicilian Catholic family, she got a job as a reporter with the National Enquirer, married a psychiatrist and had a son. She and her husband broke up but later reconciled.

With no publishing experience, she landed a job at Simon & Schuster in 1987, where she made her name commissioning books by professional wrestlers and shock jock Howard Stern. In 1994, she was snatched away by Mr. Murdoch, who reportedly offered her a monstrous salary and her own imprint at HarperCollins — not to mention her own talk show on Fox News and the chance to do film and TV deals.

Miss Regan, meanwhile, was going through a protracted divorce from her second husband, financier Richard Kleinschmidt, by whom she has a daughter, in a legal battle rumored to have cost $1 million. The ordeal, she says, taught her to follow the advice of Chinese military strategist Tsun Tzu: “to learn to enjoy the war.”

According to Vanity Fair, Miss Regan enjoys all kinds of wars. “That’s not true,” she says. “I don’t like conflict; I like resolution. But sometimes you don’t have a choice.”

Miss Regan prefers to think of herself as “passionate” rather than tough and insists that there is nothing wrong with being demanding. She rails against a generation of “spoiled, over-indulged brats” who have little work ethic and “want me to do their job.”

Tales of such macho behavior stand out in the relatively rarefied world of publishing, she adds. Do women have to tough it out at her level? Oh, yes, Miss Regan says. “I’ve studied this. People hate taking orders from women. If I walked in here in an executive suit and was a man and taller and had a deeper voice, it would be a lot easier.

“However, working with authors, I have to say I think the opposite is true. I think I get away with a lot more as a woman.”

One of the clues to her success is that she runs her company like a news organization, reacting quickly to events and other books. Some of her books have been completed in as little as two weeks. But Miss Regan says she resents being associated purely with celebrity books, insisting that they account for a small percentage of her output.

As for her love life, she’s seeing an Italian-based businessman. The romance blossomed after he gave her a ride home from a restaurant on his motorbike. The rest of her life is taken up with her work and her children.

Apparently proud to be an outsider in publishing, she says she doesn’t mix with the “cultural elite.” Even her boss, Jane Friedman, HarperCollins’ chief executive, has described her publicly as “a little bit of a loose cannon.”

That remark was “unfortunate,” Miss Regan says. “If I had the job of CEO, I’d say: ‘Judith Regan is the most talented person in the world of publishing. She’s accomplished more than anybody else in the history of the industry, and we’re lucky to have her.’”

People dislike her, she says, because they have always been jealous of her — jealous of her sexiness when she was young, of her wonderful children and of her business success now. “There’s a lot of heavy-duty pathological envy in America,” Miss Regan says.

Publishing is apparently not enough to contain an ego such as hers. Miss Regan is also involved in television and film production and says such tie-ins with books are the way forward in an increasingly nonreading world.

She hosted a chat show for eight years, and some believe she wants to get back into TV. “I was the oldest woman on the Fox News Channel and the only one who had not had plastic surgery,” Miss Regan says.

“As a woman in her 50s, I don’t want to deal with aging on television. If anything, I would do a radio show.”

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