Mailbag: What’s Jay Penske Up To? His Latest Legal Threat

The mail brought a letter from Jay Penske on Thursday “a courtesy due to the recent events involving the ‘poaching’ of employees in this industry” – thanks Jay!

The mail brought a legal letter from counsel for Jay Penske, the new owner of Variety, apropos of nothing that I can think of. 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. Labor specialists would have a good time arguing over the credibility of such legal posturing. And tortious interference is a two-way street.

Would love anyone’s legal opinion as to why we’d get this particular letter now. We’re puzzled.  But Penske must have something on his mind. Combined with the news that Newsweek was shuttering its print edition after 80 years, it must make for him a thought-provoking day.