After a number of reports were written in the last 12 hours speculating whether Nikki Finke will be leaving Deadline.com, the Hollywood news site she founded, Finke herself has finally responded.
In an article she’s written at Deadline.com this morning, June 3, 2013, Finke begins, "Right now I am not going to discuss my Deadline Hollywood contract or my relationship with my boss Jay Penske. Why? Because I don’t have to. If that changes, I’ll tell you."
Finke adds: "The fact is I’m out of town and about to begin my long-planned summer vacation. And the last thing I want is to be bothered now by a bunch of media and/or moguls asking for comment."
So Finke herself isn’t saying right now whether she’s staying with Deadline or not.
A Los Angeles Times story by Company Town reporters Joe Flint and Dawn Chmielewski written Sunday night explains what led up to Finke writing about this issue at all: "Speculation about Finke’s future at Deadline Hollywood heated up after rival online publication The Wrap reported that Finke was dismissed from her position after clashing with Jay Penske, the chief executive of Penske Media Corp., or PMC, which owns Deadline Hollywood.
"However, soon after The Wrap posted its story, PMC put a statement on Deadline Hollywood calling the piece ‘libelous, false, and defamatory’ and saying it didn’t have an ‘ounce of truth to it.’"
The Flint and Chmielewski piece asked, "So does that mean the often combative Finke is staying put?
"Not necessarily. Although the statement from PMC said the company had not fired Finke, it also said she ‘has a multi-year contract with the company, and it is the company’s absolute intention to continue its obligations under the agreement.’ According to people close to Finke, her PMC contract has a window, opening this month, that allows her to leave Deadline. It is no secret around Hollywood that Finke has been unhappy with Penske since PMC bought rival trade publication Variety. Finke was hoping to play a role in running Variety for PMC, but none has materialized."
The Company Town piece continues: "The mercurial Finke has been telling people that she is looking to leave Deadline and go back into business for herself. While she was filing her box-office report for this weekend she told some people that it would be her last such piece for Deadline."
Over at L.A. Observed, Kevin Roderick writes: "Anne Thompson, another longtime hand in the Hollywood trades, says at IndieWire that ‘there are some whisps of truth in Sharon Waxman’s breathless announcement that Jay Penske has fired Nikki Finke from Deadline Hollywood. … The real issue is Finke’s Deadline contract with Penske, which comes up next year. It’s not so much a question of Penske firing Finke. It’s a question of his renewing her. If their talks break down and she leaves, as I understand it the name Deadline goes with her. But the other Deadline employees are Penske’s.’ Thompson’s headline: ‘Where there’s smoke there’s fire.’ "
Roderick continues: "So many angles at work here. Maybe this is just a heated contract negotiation. Maybe, as Thompson suggests, Penske realized he doesn’t need the embarrassments that Finke brings along with her Rolodex. Finke has not seemed happy about the Penske takeover of Variety, and maybe it’s time to cash out. One other thing to watch: For Waxman, who has exchanged personal and professional snipes with Finke for years, this is something of an all-in poker move. Either Waxman is completely right that Penske ‘fired’ Finke or she’s arguably out of the game. I would hate to be a staffer invested in the future of The Wrap if Waxman overreached on this ‘shocker,’ as her headline terms the story — accompanied by that decades-old photo of Finke with a red X drawn through it."
In her piece this morning Finke does address Waxman’s report: "I am stating for the record that there is no truth to her claim that ‘the most recent conflict between Penske and Finke involved an email that Finke sent to two partners at UTA in the wake of losing a scoop, according to an individual with knowledge of the exchange. The scoop in question was a story in TheWrap about the talent agency seeking an equity investor. In an email to, among others, CEO Jeremy Zimmer, Finke threatened to "f—" the agency, according to the individual. The email was sent to Penske.’
"That email doesn’t exist. I repeat, it doesn’t exist. True, I’ve occasionally lost my temper and sent nasty emails to Hollywood. And not once has Jay Penske ever complained to me about them. (He knows I’m a bitch. That’s why he bought me.) But I never sent the email described above."