Deadline.com has posted this note from senior staffers Michael Fleming and Nellie Andreeva, under the headline Deadline.com And Nikki Finke Parting Ways. Remember that Fleming posted last month that he was no longer on Finke's side in her contest of wills with buyer Jay Penske over the future of the site. Here is tonight's post:
Despite attempts by all to have it go otherwise, Nikki Finke will no longer be leading Deadline Hollywood, and she will not be writing weekend box office or filing stories going forward. This is an emotional and painful parting of the ways for us. When we joined Deadline four years ago from The Hollywood Reporter and Variety (respectively), we felt that we were doing something disruptive and game-changing. That spirit is what brought us together and will keep us together, and the current team will remain on that path. Businesses evolve and change, and we’ve learned that no one is indispensable. We will be adding a few significant hires to our staff imminently and, though we will never completely replace Nikki’s unique voice, we will continue ahead, charging hard, breaking every story possible. On behalf of everyone at PMC and Deadline Hollywood, we wish her well and appreciate the opportunity to have worked alongside her.
Finke confirms the separation, which hints strongly at some kind of contract settlement between her and Penske. His spokesperson's position previously had been that Penske and his PMC would live up to their contract obligations — which seemed to leave unsaid that he expected Finke to live up to hers. Her first tweet tonight: "Jay Penske has just told me I am free to leave. He tried to buy my silence. No sale."
Great day! I loved starting Deadline Hollywood and I loved what we built. I now can leave and start a new career at http://t.co/8vaMwz16aD— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) November 6, 2013
I'll announce shortly where I'm going to set up http://t.co/8vaMwz16aD and what will be the new showbiz news feed. Exciting changes!— Nikki Finke (@NikkiFinke) November 6, 2013
Finke told the LA Times that she left money on the table to get out of her contract immediately. Reports Joe Flint:
"I'm so happy," Finke said in a brief interview.
Finke said she plans to start a new website that will compete with Deadline and Variety in chronicling the ins and outs of Hollywood.
However, things took a turn this week after the two met with a mediator in an effort tor reach an accord. While Finke said the talks didn't appear to go far, nonetheless Penske decided to release her from her contract, which ran through 2016.
Finke told me last month that of the 11 Deadline employees, eight expressed support and "asked to follow me out the door." I did not seek to confirm that. As of now, by the way, NikkiFinke.com redirects to Deadline's website.
A side note to the whole episode: Amazingly, The Wrap is crowing about its reporting on the breakup between Finke and Penske. If I were them, I'd lay low. The site's boss, Sharon Waxman, reported breathlessly back in June on a scoop that never happened: "Nikki Finke has been fired from the blog she founded, Deadline Hollywood, and will be leaving the company as soon as this week, multiple individuals with knowledge of the situation have told TheWrap." Penske's flack called the post "libelous, false, and defamatory...a complete fabrication, with not an ounce of truth to it." Fleming said the same in a post. There may actually have been a lot of truth to the subtext — whatever event Waxman picked up on does seem to be the beginning of the end for the Finke-Penske alliance that finally went belly up tonight. But the details always matter when you claim a scoop. The Wrap said Finke had been fired in June and here she is leaving in November.