At a gathering of Hollywood journalists over the weekend, there was considerable talk about the unhappiness level of three different cohorts of media types who are affected by Jay Penske taking over Variety. One pod are those who work at Variety, another group are those who work with Nikki Finke at Deadline, and finally there was speculation about Finke herself and her reported exclusion from the doings at Variety. Regarding the middle group — those Hollywood media veterans who work for Finke — rival editor Sharon Waxman at The Wrap posted today that she received a Penske letter telling her not to dare try and hire any of the scribes who do the heavy reportorial lifting at Finke's website.
Curiously, the letter was about Deadline and claimed to be “a courtesy due to the recent events involving the ‘poaching’ of employees in this industry.”
“Please be advised that PMC employees, including but not limited to Nikki Finke, Mike Fleming, Pete Hammond and Nellie Andreeva, are under long term employment contracts with PMC,” it warned. “Therefore, the act of ‘poaching’ a PMC employee while he or she is under contract with PMC would be tortious interference with PMC’s employment contract” etc. etc.
It was signed by Bryan J. Freedman, Finke's and Penske’s lawyer, and it’s a head-scratcher. What is Jay worried about exactly? That other news organizations will try to hire the Deadline staff while he is focused on Variety? Shouldn’t he be worried about folks poaching from Variety rather than Deadline?
We’ve gotten these letters from Penske before and we have a special file where we put them.
There's a history of legal back-and-forth between Finke's and Waxman's operations.
Meanwhile: Penske installed a new publisher at Variety today. Michelle Sobrino-Stearns is in, Brian Gott is out. Sobrino-Stearns had been associate publisher and is the first female publisher in the trade's history, says The Wrap.