In 2009, Nikki Finke sold her online entertainment magazine Deadline Hollywood Daily — famous for its original scoops — to Mail.com Media Group, an Internet company controlled by Jay Penske, for a whopping $14 million.
But when Penske also purchased Finke’s competitor, Variety, last year, she wasn’t happy.
Despite being owned by the same company, Deadline recently mocked Variety for its “humiliating loss of readership and influence.”
Apparently, Finke was peeved that 34-year-old Chairman and CEO, Jay Penske, didn’t give her a leading role at Variety, which is a direct competitor and has been around for longer than Deadline.
And now Finke wants out of Penske’s media empire.
“Jay Penske shared my vision of what Deadline could be, [but] now circumstances have changed with the addition of Variety and the issue is whether this shared vision is still intact,” Finke tells The Wall Street Journal in a candid new interview. “One of the most noble things Jay Penske could ever do would be to give me back Deadline.”
If Penske doesn’t give Finke her site back, the veteran journalist says she will find an investor to help her buy the site back.
And if neither of those things happen, Finke will just start her own site, the NikkiFinke.com — which, she says, “would fill a different need for the Hollywood community” than Deadline.
Finke tells the WSJ she believes that in order for the publications to coexist as corporate siblings, they can’t be direct competitors.
“It is very clear that our specialty is breaking news,” Finke said of Deadline. “I would like to see Variety’s specialty be analysis and commentary.”
And in seemingly further hopes of keeping the peace, Finke tells the WSJ, “I have confidence that no matter what happens, Jay and I can reach an amicable solution to all of this.”
A spokesperson for Penske, meanwhile, emailed the WSJ a flat reply: “We are very pleased with the overwhelming success of the Variety business since our acquisition, as well as Deadline.com’s continued growth of audience and revenue.”
While Finke’s attorneys have proposed that she should be let out of her contract, which runs through 2016, the Penske rep says the company has “every intent to continue … our contractual relationship with Ms. Finke through the end of her term.”
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