Jay Penske Has Something to Say to TheWrap About Claudia Eller

He writes: “You wanted to kick someone hard when they were down”

Jay Penske Claudia Eller
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Sharon Waxman

Sharon Waxman On the Business of Entertainment

The founder and editor of TheWrap’s take on life on the left coast, high culture, low culture and the business of entertainment and media. Waxman writes frequently on the inside doings of Hollywood, and is is also the author of two books, Rebels on the Back Lot and Loot

PMC CEO Jay Penske rarely goes on the record. So I thought I would share his note to me on Friday in the wake of our story about the exit of Variety Editor Claudia Eller, which followed a town hall where staffers criticized her management. Penske wrote me – and cc’ed Eller and much of Variety’s business staff – accusing me of various terrible things, journalistic and other. He wrote: “Sharon, you knew the facts….you had the facts–both Lauren (Utecht, head of communications) and I both gave you the truth, but you wanted to kick someone hard when they were down.” Penske is incorrect in his fact-based accusations. We spoke to a representative for PMC before we posted our story. Moreover, the criticism in the town hall was verified by multiple individuals who attended or were aware of it. Eller herself wrote to her staff on Thursday night: “I completely understand your anger and upset at me; it is not at all misplaced,” and vowed to undertake a “serious moment of reflection” during her leave of absence. I have been inundated with further information on Friday about Eller’s management. It’s juicy but not particularly helpful, so I’m not going to share it. In that context, though, it is fascinating how determined Penske is to defend Eller and – in a way – touching, I guess. He was similarly wedded to defending Nikki Finke, the founder of Deadline who famously fought publicly with me and TheWrap, before she went away for good. (This is what happens when you stick around for long enough.) The Penske organization seems determined to teach me how to do journalism. However, the last time I had occasion to talk to Jay Penske on a different story I had to explain, in detail, the difference between “on the record” and “on background.” I’m still unclear if he grasps the difference, but his letter was sent to me with no such caveats. Anyway, here it is in full: Dear Sharon I must send you a note today. As I am still so frustrated that you (a fellow female eic) decided to slander Claudia when she was down. She didn’t come to you for any help, she didn’t seek any special treatment during this challenging time–but you couldn’t just write the facts, instead you smeared her and her reputation. Sharon, you knew the facts….you had the facts–both Lauren and I both gave you the truth, but you wanted to kick someone hard when they were down. Is that what you and thewrap have become? Staff Revolt? Claudia forcing people into CV-19. It’s BULLSHIT, and you should really be embarrassed. You pre-published a story with erroneous facts and a salacious headline before you even called Lauren. What kind of journalism is that Sharon?? To beat Variety posting Claudia’s letter, to beat Deadline, to disparage a fellow journalist in attempt to support your competitive agenda?! It makes me sick to see how low you’ve gone to attempt to hurt one of the finest journalists in this town. I will never forget this moment Sharon Waxman.