Scholastic, the world's largest publisher of children's books, was handed down from founder Maurice Robinson to son Richard Robinson in 1975—but when the younger Robinson died suddenly in June at age 84, relatives were stunned to discover that the business wasn't staying in the family. Robinson left his controlling stake in the $1.2 billion company, along with his personal possessions, to Iole Lucchese, Scholastic's chief strategy officer. Relatives and former employees tell the Wall Street Journal that Lucchese, a 30-year company veteran, was Robinson's longtime romantic partner, though they apparently split up a few years ago. Robinson divorced Helen Benham in 2003 and they have two children, 34-year-old Ben and 25-year-old Reece. They are considering legal action, as are Robinson's siblings.
Reece, a filmmaker, describes his father's 2018 will as "unexpected and shocking," while Ben, who operates a sawmill and workshop, describes it as "salt in an open wound." Sources tell the Journal that Robinson spoke of how he had to "earn his stripes" at the company, but neither of his sons chose to work there. "I didn't want to sacrifice my early 20s to work at a corporation," Reece says. Benham—who had grown closer to Robinson again in recent years and was with him when he died during a walk in Martha's Vineyard—says she is also shocked by the will. The issue of who controlled the company was unclear for weeks after Robinson's death, but Lucchese was named chair of the board in mid-July, Publishers Weekly reports. Robinson's will gives her control of 53.8% of the company's Class A shares, which hold the majority of voting power. (Read more Scholastic stories.)