'This was the job offer of a lifetime'

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The reincarnation of Michael Lynton as the chief executive of Penguin, the book publishers, marks the latest step in an impressive career which has seen a rapid rise through the Disney ranks.

He will leave behind the top job at Hollywood Pictures, one of Disney's three production studios, and stints at Disney magazines, and Disney Books.

"This really was the job offer of a lifetime," Mr Lynton said yesterday. "I spoke to [Disney chiefs] Michael Eisner and Michael Ovitz, and they suggested some things I might do if I stayed at Disney," said Mr Lynton. "But once they realised I wanted to do this, they were wonderful."

Just 36, Mr Lynton was born in the UK of German parents, and moved to the United States after several years in Holland. He attended Harvard University as an undergraduate and then took a management degree at the same institution. He has been at Disney ever since.

He started the Disney Publishing arm, and ran the division responsible for such magazines as Discover, Family Fun and Disney Adventures.

While at Disney, he signed a joint venture with Penguin to publish a few books, although the arrangement is no longer in place. "I got to know the Penguin people quite well, and got along with them," he said. For the past two years, Mr Lynton has been president of Hollywood Pictures, where his output included While You Were Sleeping and Dangerous Minds.

While he declined to say so yesterday, it is clear that Mr Lynton was looking for a way to leave Los Angeles, a town which he believes is not the best place for children. With a baby daughter just three days old, and her two-year-old sister, the family would be better off on the East Coast, he hinted.

And how much is a former Hollywood chief worth to Pearson? "I'd rather not talk about the financial aspects," he said demurely, but it is clear that the salary, with share options, will soothe the pain of resettling in New York.

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