A succession battle is heating up at Scholastic, with the sons of the longtime head of the book and magazine publisher, who died in June, challenging their father’s will.
In the will, CEO Richard Robinson bequeathed his controlling stake in the company to Iole Lucchese, a Scholastic executive with whom Richard Robinson had an extended personal relationship. Lucchese is now chairwoman of the board and Chief Strategy Officer of Scholastic.
The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the sons, John Benham Robinson and Maurice Robinson, are challenging Lucchese for control of the company. The older son, John, declined to sign a court document waiving his right to contest the will, the Journal reported. And on Nov. 12, both sons asked the New Your Surrogate’s Court for documents related to the will and for the right to interview witnesses.
“One issue of keen interest to the family is a pledge they believe the elder Mr. Robinson made years ago to give voting shares to his sons in return for borrowing money from their mother, his ex-wife Helen Benham, people familiar with the family’s thinking said. The family also believes Mr. Robinson was at work on a new will when he died, they said.”
If the challenge proceeds, the legal fight is likely to continue for months, distracting the $1.5 billion company from its business operations. If the Robinson brothers are successful in a legal fight or in reaching a favorable settlement, the Journal reported, some or all of Lucchese’s voting power could shift to the family, giving them influence over everything from the leadership of the company to whether it should engage in any major transactions.
Thomas Rice, a partner at the law firm Baker & McKenzie LLP who represents Scholastic, told the Journal: “Creating legal delays and distractions isn’t in the best interest of Scholastic or its shareholders. We have no basis to believe a will contest will be successful.”
Rice said Robinson’s directive was to “ensure the continued professional management of Scholastic in accordance with its independent legacy and educational mission.”
And Scholastic spokeswoman Anne Sparkman said of Lucchese: “Iole is committed to doing what’s best for all stakeholders, including the Robinson family. She’s trying to work constructively with Mr. Robinson’s sons.”