Wylie accuses HC of "punitive" behaviour

Agent Andrew Wylie has accused HarperCollins of acting in an "unusually shrill and punitive" way toward authors, claiming the controversy surrounding parent company NewsCorp should lead to the publisher being examined more closely.

Wylie made the claims in an interview with BBC Radio 4's "The World at One" today (Monday). In response, HC described Wylie's claims as "extravagant" and lacking in detail. A spokesperson said: "The more mundane truth is that HarperCollins have had differences of opinion on business matters with Mr Wylie in recent times."

The agent said the publisher had been under "unusual pressure" for some time and said he had raised concerns with James Murdoch, News Corp deputy chief operating officer, 18 months ago. Wylie said Murdoch told him he was not responsible for the running of the company to which Wylie replied he felt the business should be "looked after a little more closely". He said: "That was the end of it but I do think the company needs to be looked after a bit more carefully."

NewsCorp is under pressure in the wake of the News of the World phone hacking scandal. When asked if he felt the scandal could lead to other NewsCorp companies being examined, including HarperCollins, Wylie said: "Yes, it will focus attention on all parts of the business and people will perhaps turn on some lights in rooms that have been left dark previously and look more closely at what is profitable and what is not and what is proper behaviour and what isn't."

When asked if he felt there has been improper behaviour in HarperCollins, he replied: "I do. They have been, and I've explained this to the heads of the company in London and New York, unusually shrill and punitive towards authors." He said this had been in a "improper way" but said he did not want to go into examples.

Following the interview, a HarperCollins spokesperson said: "Mr Wylie makes extravagant allegations to the BBC but fails to specify exactly what he is complaining about. The more mundane truth is that HarperCollins have had differences of opinion on business matters with Mr Wylie in recent times. Mr Wylie is a seasoned operator (there is a reason for his nickname 'The Jackal)' but we are taken aback by his crude attempt to link a business disagreement with more serious matters."