James R. Pierce, publisher of Business Week magazine, resigned abruptly to join Lotus Development Corp. in launching a new magazine.

Pierce's departure was unexpected, Business Week's editor-in-chief, Stephen B. Shepard, said in New York. The announcement was made by Lotus late in the day, and Shepard said he hadn't seen the announcement and couldn't elaborate on it.

According to Lotus, a Cambridge, Mass.-based software producer, Pierce will be directing marketing and sales for the new magazine, to be called Lotus. He will be forming a new advertising sales company with Lotus as its exclusive client.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to start my own company and at the same time be involved in the launch of a really exciting new magazine," Pierce said in a statement. He could not be reached for comment.

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