* Updated to clarity the lede a bit. WSJ updated its subhed.
Nikki Finke told Ben Fritz of the Wall Street Journal that she isn't sure that she and Jay Penske share the same vision for Deadline Hollywood — not since his takeover of, and support for, the Hollywood trade Variety. "One of the most noble things Jay Penske could ever do would be to give me back Deadline," Finke says in a piece just made free on the Journal's paywall-protected website. The two sides are negotiating a possible divorce, but Finke's contract runs until 2016 and a spokesperson for Penske says "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."
After Mr. Penske purchased Variety last year, Deadline founder and editor Nikki Finke became unhappy that he didn't give her a role at the older and more famous competitor. She is now seeking to buy back control of her website, she says, or if that isn't possible, start a new one.
Either move would cause a stir throughout Hollywood, where the name "Nikki" is a brand of its own thanks to Ms. Finke's trademark mix of scoops, snark and vitriol against those she believes have crossed her. The fact that the former Associated Press and Newsweek writer hasn't been photographed or seen in public in decades only adds to her mystique.
"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," Ms. Finke said in an interview this week.
It is still possible Ms. Finke and Mr. Penske will resolve their differences, but they disagree on the key question of the terms under which Ms. Finke could depart Deadline.com under her employment contract. Recently, Ms. Finke's attorneys have proposed that she should be let out of her contract, which runs through 2016.
Finke says if she leaves and starts a new website, it will have a different focus than Deadline Hollywood, which she created. She told Fritz "I have confidence that no matter what happens, Jay and I can reach an amicable solution to all of this."
Friday morning update: It has now been three months since Sharon Waxman reported at The Wrap that Finke was "fired" by Penske and would be leaving within the week. Finke said then the story was wrong and tweeted this last night:
When will TheWrap (aka TheCrap) apologize for and correct Sharon Waxman's completely erroneous story about me?— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) September 6, 2013
Hollywood sign photo: Veronique de Turenne