Update - Nov. 6, 12:00 a.m. ET: Nikki Finke responded to the news in an interview with Defamer. “Today is a very, very happy day. I’m free. [Jay Penske] tried to buy my silence, but I said no sale,” she told the website. “We had mediation yesterday and it didn’t go well … There was a point I even volunteered to leave online journalism together just to get free, and this way, this is the best of all outcomes.”
Update - Nov. 5, 9:58 p.m. ET: Nikki Finke has officially parted ways with Deadline Hollywood. A post from Tuesday evening, with Mike Fleming Jr. and Nellie Andreeva’s co-byline, read, “This is an emotional and painful parting of the ways for us … 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 … We wish her well and appreciate the opportunity to have worked alongside her.”
Update - Oct. 25, 8:11 p.m. ET: In the late afternoon on Friday, Deadline Hollywood’s Mike Fleming Jr. wrote a post with the headline “Fleming On Deadline’s Efforts To Restore Nikki Finke’s Game-Changing Writer Voice.” He semi-confirmed Finke’s assertion in the post below that her posting privileges to Deadline have been altered. He then went on to dispute many of her claims, and called the site when it was Finke-only “more a guilty pleasure than a business.” But he also wrote, “We want the old Nikki Finke back.”
All of this drama has really been quite a display. In the past couple of years under Finke, with reporters Fleming, Nellie Andreeva, and several others, Deadline has been the primary news-breaker in entertainment. Whether that’s because of Finke’s cult of personality, as well as her reputation for threatening executives, combined with fearsome determination to report news on her part and on her staff’s, it’s the site that most people in show business want their news on. That is just a fact, even if it’s a troubling one.
This public nervous breakdown of a business demonstrates why executives, who are mostly scared creatures, have so often bowed to Deadline. The site is not professional at its core, which I imagine Finke would take as a compliment. I mean, who acts like this at work?
I have no idea what would happen to Deadline without Finke at its center, and no matter what Fleming writes, it is still her reflection (for better and for much, much worse). And I don’t know what a new Finke startup would look like, either. She has burned a lot of people. If she starts over, will she get the same results?
What I do know is that Hollywood executives gave these people this power. Pathetic, right?
It might signal the end of an ugly, months-long split between Nikki Finke, the mysterious and feared Hollywood journalist, and Jay Penske, whose company has owned Deadline since 2009. Finke confirmed Thursday to BuzzFeed that she has been trying to extract herself from their partnership.
Finke, who founded Deadline and built it into a powerful breaking news site, says she wants start nikkifinke.com, and claims she has an offer to do so. Her tensions with Penske have been spilling into the public since June when Finke’s arch enemy Sharon Waxman wrote a story on her site The Wrap saying that Penske had fired Finke. According to Finke, Penske claims her contract with him lasts until 2016; she feels he has violated the contract, and she should be allowed to leave.
All day Friday, Finke has taunted Penske on Twitter, posting tweets such as, “Earth To Penske: Hollywood tried and failed to intimidate me. Big Media tried and failed to intimidate me. I like to brawl, remember?”
Penske has not returned multiple emails asking for a comment. Finke did not answer an email Friday morning.