Scholastic Staff 'Knew' Late CEO Dated Colleague, Source Says as Her Inheritance Shocks Family

Dick Robinson Jr. left the famed publishing company and his personal possessions to Iole Lucchese, Scholastic's chief strategy officer

Richard Robinson, Iole Lucchese
M. Richard Robinson Jr. and Iole Lucchese. Photo: Beowulf Sheehan/PEN America

Late Scholastic CEO Richard "Dick" Robinson Jr.'s decision to leave the company and his personal possessions to chief strategy officer Iole Lucchese shocked his family, but it may not have taken his employees by surprise.

Robinson, who died on June 5 at age 84, was reportedly romantically involved with Lucchese — and now a source tells PEOPLE they appeared "very open" about their relationship in the workplace.

"We all knew," adds the insider.

The source says that Scholastic staffers also knew Lucchese, 54, would inherit the company where she's worked for 30 years, describing it as an open secret in the office.

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"It was not a shock to me at all," the source says, adding that Lucchese — who is also Scholastic's chair of the board, executive vice president and president of Scholastic Entertainment — was respected in the office because she had his ear.

Richard Robinson
Richard "Dick" Robinson Jr. Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Spokespersons for Scholastic did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

A former Scholastic employee praised Lucchese to the Wall Street Journal, and said it was admirable that "women leadership spoke freely and candidly and it seemed to me, in the opportunities I had to be a part of those meetings, that was encouraged. … Iole has a point of view and she shares it."

Robinson's family, including his siblings, ex-wife Helen Benham and two adult sons, were left "shocked" when they learned that a will he drafted in 2018 left his personal possessions and control of the $1.2 billion company to Lucchese, the WSJ reported.

Older son John Benham "Ben" Robinson, 34, told the newspaper that the will's contents "served as salt in an open wound," while younger son Reece, 25, agreed that it was "unexpected and shocking."

"You might think from the will that he didn't see his sons. That's not true," he told the WSJ. "For the last two years, I saw him multiple times a week."

Meanwhile, Benham — who reportedly worked at Scholastic for more than 30 years and at one point served on the board — told the newspaper that she had always been dedicated to the company. She and Robinson had reportedly grown close again following their 2003 divorce.

"I lived and breathed Scholastic while also raising our two children," she said. "Dick told me on more than one occasion, 'You care more about Scholastic than I do.' … I was shocked and we were not expecting this."

According to his obituary, Robinson was walking on trails with Benham and Reece on Martha's Vineyard when he died.

Robinson is the son of Scholastic founder Maurice Robinson, who launched the company in 1920 and grew it into a popular hub for children's literature, including Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Goosebumps and Captain Underpants.

Robinson had been working "full time until the moment of his death" as CEO and chairman, a job he'd had for 46 years, according to his obit.

Lucchese, meanwhile, was born in Toronto and has been with Scholastic for 30 years. She has "consistently led innovative efforts to deepen connections with and better support teachers, families, young readers, and other consumers, while expanding access to Scholastic content around the world," according to her company bio.

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