Don't Read All About It

You and I might like a trip to the stars, but if we can't pay for it, it's just talk, right?

-- Ross Perot on the Clinton Administration's health-care plan

The Haft family feud has all the elements of a major best-seller. After all, there's sex and violence: Gloria Haft, the wife of silver-maned Herbert, accuses the Dart Group chairman of womanizing and physical abuse, both of which he denies. And there's major money at stake: Dart and the other Haft holdings are worth billions.

To top it off, there's a titanic corporate power struggle: Herbert ousted son Robert as Dart president, re- placing him with another son, Ronald--and also kicked wife Gloria off the Dart board. Lawsuits are flying.

So it's hardly surprising that, after financial reporter Kara Swisher of The Washington Post did a two-part series on the clan of battling billionaires, book agents hustled to sign her up to pen the saga.

But don't necessarily count on seeing this juicy tale in your neighborhood bookstore anytime soon. Why not? Well, Dart Group, the holding company that is controlled by the Haft family, also happens to be the majority owner of Crown Books, the nation's third-largest book retailer. And you bet that's enough to make a lot of publishers wary.

"We've gotten a lot of rejections," sighs Swisher. One such letter from a major publishing house said: "We are nervous about the Crown connection." Another publisher's letter said the project was "fraught with difficulties," alluding to Herbert's reputation for litigiousness. Adds one top publishing executive, who asked not to be named: "Who needs this headache?" Dart would not comment on the Haft book proposal.

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