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Judith Regan’s Coldest. Firing. Ever.

Good morning, HarperCollins faithful! How’s that hangover doing? Take your aspirin and drink lots of water? Because I bet you weren’t expecting the lovely piece of news awaiting in your inboxes, text messages, RSS feeds and voicemails upon arriving home Friday night from NewsCorp‘s air-travel-themed Christmas party – no wonder serious remedies (like more drinking) were in order!

Facetiousness aside, the point is this: after a month of scandal, incessant news coverage, eaten costs and global humiliation, HarperCollins – by that I mean CEO Jane Friedman, Judith Regan‘s perpetual archnemesis – struck back in the iciest, most brilliant way. It’s one thing to fire someone late on a Friday just as the publishing industry (and the journalists who cover them) gets ready to shut down for the holiday, or at least the weekend. It’s quite another to do so by fax – not even email or text message! – as thousands of NewsCorp employees gussy themselves up for the company Christmas party at the midtown Hilton so that they can mingle with yet more thousands of their bestest friends. In a word: ouch!

And then there’s strike three: moving rapidly to reorganize the REGAN imprint within HarperCollins’ infrastructure by appointing her long-suffering Editorial Director, Cal Morgan, to helm the ship for now – pre-empting any possibility of him going with her in any potential new venture.

So, yes, Kelly Jane Torrance made good points in her rebuttal of Friedman’s PW honor as Person of the Year.* And perhaps such criticisms even factored into what happened late Friday. But by subjecting Judith Regan to what amounts to a professional guillotining, Friedman gets a more distinctive honor: 2006′s Greatest Power Play.

Ron adds: Or does she? Because as far as Regan’s concerned, this means war, and she’s bringing out the heavy artillery. As Jeff Trachtenberg reports, she’s hired superattorney Bert Fields, who says, “We’ll take appropriate action for everything HarperCollins has done. They chose this path and I hope they remember it.” Keep in mind this is the guy who went to bat for Jeffrey Katzenberg against Walt Disney nearly a decade ago and got more millions for his client than most businesses earn in a year. Watch for this to get very ugly, very fast—or else to be tightly contained in a conference room somewhere in Los Angeles.

*Namely, Ron explains, that at least in their professional capacity, Friedman and other executives at Harper and News Corp. were for If I Did It before they were against it, and as David Carr reminds us, they changed their minds “not because it was in bad taste or because it was bad for the culture at large, but because it was bad for business.”

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