Dan Loeb, a principal in the Third Point hedge fund and a Variety co-owner, tried to have Deadline editor-in-chief Nikki Finke fired “at least three times,” according to a new Vanity Fair profile of the outspoken investor.
Loeb bought Variety with Jay Penske, whose parent company also owns Deadline, last October. Since then, relations between Penske and FInke have been on a downward slide, to say the least.
William D. Cohan’s 6,000-word Vanity Fair piece observes that after Finke laid into Loeb on her blog for meddling in Sony affairs, “a source close to the situation says that Loeb tried at least three times to have Finke fired.” Loeb is identified by Cohan as a 25 percent stakeholder in Variety.
The revelation adds a new wrinkle to the Finke-watching that has fascinated some in Hollywood since TheWrap first reported that she was at loggerheads with Penske in June to the point where he had fired her.
Cohan passed along this tidbit while chronicling the investor’s aggressive business tactics against Yahoo and Sony. The story, which dubs Loeb “the Kanye West of Wall Street,” outlines the behavior that put him in the critical crosshairs of “Monuments Men” director George Clooney this summer.
This summer, Loeb slammed the management team behind Sony Pictures over the summer for producing summer flops like “After Earth” and “White House Down.”
In response, Finke published a column on Aug. 6 which labeled Loeb “The Most Hated Man in Hollywood,” and praised Clooney for “having the balls to hold up Loeb to public scorn.”
“Hollywood expresses its disdain for Loeb’s despicable tactics by not reading or advertising in Variety, the in-house newsletter he owns with my boss Jay Penske,” Finke wrote. “Loeb should learn his actions have consequences.”
The critical column then disappeared, then reappeared, and has since gone missing again.
A Penske spokesperson denied the Vanity Fair claim about Loeb calling for Finke’s removal.
“Quite the contrary,” a spokesperson told the magazine. “Third Point and/or Dan Loeb have never discussed editorial direction for Deadline or Variety.”
Finke’s departure from Deadline became the object of industry speculation since TheWrap’s story in June, with Finke declining to respond to TheWrap’s report, while Penske has been mainly silent, issuing a statement saying his company would honor its “obligations” to Finke.
Last week, Finke finally tweeted that she would be leaving Deadline — the website she founded in 2009 — to build NikkiFinke.com, with the goal of unveiling it in the new year.
“All that’s left is for the lawyers to disentangle me from [owner Jay] Penske,” she tweeted. “I have no idea why he has fought so hard to keep me. I’ll be free soon.”
While Loeb may not like Finke, Cohen’s VF piece makes it perfectly clear there are plenty of colleagues out there than don’t like him at all.
Robert Chapman Jr., a hedge-fund manager in California, took a potshot at his former friend, observing, “I’ve heard it said that yoga is Dan’s form of paying penance for what he does while outside the home, whether it be the office or elsewhere. It’s like his way of self-purging.”
A competitor quoted in the article added “Loeb has got an enormous ego,” and “a bit of a Napoleonic thing.”
The piece also quotes a fellow hedge-fund manager about Loeb saying: “I saw Kanye West recently lose his shit on ‘Jimmy Kimmel’ and then it hit me: Loeb is the Kanye of Wall Street–crazy insecure despite enormous success and celebrity. Maybe Sony Music should sign up Kanye and kill two birds with one stone.”
Editor’s note: The story has been updated to add Penske Media Corp.’s denial