From the Archives

Founder and former CEO of Lerner Publishing Group Harry Lerner traveled the world to help make Lerner the company it is today. Here he shares the story of how he met Muhammad Ali.

I remember this as if it was yesterday.
We had an exhibit at the Frankfurt Book Fair in October, 1975. Frankfurt was the most popular international book fair and the American Publishers had space in a separate pavilion. Random House had a display near us and the activity at their stand was the envy of all other publishers, especially in the afternoon when Muhammad Ali was signing his autobiography at a table in their booth.
That same year we published Boxing’s Heavyweight Champions as part of our Sports Heroes Library. The book had 10 short bios and fortunately we had a copy at our stand. With book in hand I elbowed my way through the crowd to get Ali’s signature. He was busy signing his own books and was clearly shocked when I showed him ours. He said to me, “What’s this?,” clearly surprised and possibly irritated. I quickly and confidentially said, “Just sign here.”
Muhammad Ali is the second Heavyweight Champion I’ve met. Joe Louis (my favorite) was the other, but that’s another story.