The Memo That Gives The Game Away

This memo written by Eddie Bell, chairman of HarperCollins UK, to Anthea Disney, chief executive of News America Publishing, gives an astonishing insight into corporate strategy and language.

Re: Chris Patten's book

1. Your instruction to HarperCollins UK to relinquish rights. ... I am extremely worried ... the ramifications of not publishing are potentially serious for NewsCorp and HarperCollins.

2. Potential ramifications of publication. KRM has outlined to me the negative aspect of publication which I fully understand. I must stress that the book will be published. The issue, therefore, derives not from the book's content, but its publishing by a NewsCorp company.

3. Potential ramifications of not publishing.

To NewsCorp/KRM: Within the UK NewsCorp's actions are clearly tracked ... by often hostile media. NewsCorp's ambitions in China are often commented on ... It is difficult to believe that any decision by HarperCollins to relinquish rights will not be ... attributed to NewsCorp and become the base for negative PR (which would bring as much profile to the book as publishing).

To HarperCollins UK: ... The advance may have to be negotiated out, at least in part ... Loss of profit on book which will be material, however, we are also concerned as to the impact on two other key projects, Major and Project Y which could become victims of author reaction ... Clearly, authors will not be positively disposed to this and some negative impact on acquisitions potentially in the non-fiction adult area should not be discarded ...

To HarperCollins worldwide: ... the nature of the author community means that HarperCollins US is likely to feel ripples of UK author/editorial sensitivity.

4. Overview. This issue is one of balancing one negative action against another. There are effectively two options: publish and seek to contain any negative PR. Not publish and seek to contain any negative PR.

5. Recommendation. ... Please can I ask you to review the points and brief me. KRM should be personally briefed. PR strategy to be put in place. Here the question is at what level: NewsCorp/HarperCollins worldwide/HarperCollins UK?

6. Summary. Anthea, I am sorry to have to share my concerns with you ... I would be grateful if we could discuss this ...

This text first appeared in the Daily Telegraph.