A public feud erupted Friday afternoon between Deadline Hollywood founder and editor-in-chief Nikki Finke and The Hollywood Reporter, one of her site’s main rivals.
Hollywood trade publications are predisposed to slight one another, but today’s exchange between Finke and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, the law firm of THR’s parent company Prometheus Global Media, raised these often-petty feuds to a new level of causticity.
Debevoise & Plimpton’s Bruce P. Keller called some of Finke’s recent statements illegal and destructive; Finke responded that the firm should stick her letter up their asses, and concluded by telling them to “get the fuck out of my face.”
Though THR initiated this latest round with a letter Debevoise & Plimpton sent to Deadline’s parent company Penske Media Corp., it was Finke that made this a public dispute by publishing her response letter on her site. She claimed that her boss, PMC CEO Jay Penske, urged her to do so.
Finke’s letter drew a rapid response from both her readership and members of the Hollywood media, prompting THR to publish its initial letter.
Finke declined to comment on the matter while THR’s editor-in-chief Janice Min and Penske did not return requests for comment.
In the initial letter, Keller asserted that Finke is “engaged in conduct on your behalf that crosses the line from her usual bad behavior to a concerted and unlawful attempt to disrupt THR’s business.”
This attempt allegedly includes lying about layoffs at THR, harassing reporters and grossly false depictions of THR’s current financial situation.
The letter notes that THR’s website generates nearly three times the traffic that Deadline does and that its ad revenue is way up.
While former Prometheus CEO Richard Beckman recently told TheWrap that ad pages had increased substantially as compared to a year ago, he did not say the trade was profitable. It is common knowledge that the publication's operating costs exceed its ad revenue.
Indeed, Beckman stepped aside from running the magazine in July to focus on developing a branded entertainment business that could offset the slower than expected growth in ad revenue.
The legal threat did not sit well with Finke, who is notorious for deriding her competitors as well as sending them frequent cease and desist letters. (Including TheWrap.)
Finke began with her forceful directive regarding the letter's intended destination and accused them of trying to “intimidate” her. She then proceeded to do that very thing, noting that she has a story about THR in the works.
She then listed evidence of supposed discontent, impropriety and financial distress endemic to her rival.
She claims THR continues to lay off staffers, “steal” exclusives from her site and pursue Deadline employees. She also says THR staffers have called her with their concerns about their financial situation and, above all, lists a number of individuals who she claims have slandered her.
Now, one would be remiss in not pointing out that Finke does not seem to know the difference between libel and slander — one does not slander someone in a publication or in an email — but that is besides the point.
Finally, she says: “Comparing Deadline to THR in terms of editorial quality or traffic numbers is like comparing The Economist to The National Enquirer." (In case you are wondering who is who in that equation, she believes she's The Economist. We're guessing she hasn't read The Economist lately.)
Finke’s post drew a slew of comments and tweets, most of which expressed a combination of awe and digust.
Here are some of the Twitter responses:
>>>The Los Angeles Times’ media writer James Rainey: “Latest ugly, petty smackdown involving Nikki Finke, her Deadline Hollywood, and its rivals.”
>>>The Daily Beast’s Kate Aurthur: “Does @nikkifinke think that a lump of bile like that makes her look bad-ass? People LIKE Janice Min, you lunatic!”
>>>Variety’s Jeff Sneider wrote: “I done think Debevoise & Plimpton GOT SERVED!”
>>>MSNBC’s Courtney Hazleet: “If you need me, I'll be in a bunker hiding from Nikki Finke. Not 'cause I pissed her off, but bc her last post is THAT CRAZY