A bitter rival reported Sunday that Nikki Finke, the reclusive editor in chief of the blog Deadline Hollywood, had been fired, producing a shock wave through the entertainment industry and a swift, if opaque, denial from the site's owner.
The report from TheWrap's Sharon Waxman trumped Sunday's momentous episode of Game of Thrones in the twitter feeds of industry insiders. Finke, a former newspaper and magazine reporter, started Deadline 2006 out of her L.A. Weekly column and soon became known for her uber-aggressive, take-no-prisoners style of entertainment coverage, breaking Hollywood stories, burning executives and actors with sharp editorials that became her trademark, and punishing sources who wouldn't cooperate.
The company that owns her site, Penske Media, last year bought the storied Hollywood trade — and Deadline rival — Variety, and has remade it into a weekly magazine. Finke has criticized Variety a number of times since the purchase, including in January when she quoted an anonymous source that was fiercely critical of the publication's management.
According to Waxman, Finke and CEO Jay Penske's combustible relationship had grown even rockier of late. The Wrap quotes a Penske exec saying "She's been sending emails saying, 'I'm going to f--- you,' and Jay says he's had it."
Penske, whose firm bought Deadline in 2009, responded to Waxman in an email that said "Sharon, your story isn't true and all of the 'facts' that you mention are completely erroneous," but Waxman notes that he was silent when asked whether Finke was fired. Deadline film reporter Mike Fleming released a statement on the site praising Finke and trashing The Wrap, adding that he does not believe that Finke had been fired.
Fleming also reprinted an internal email from a Penske aide, Lauren Gullion. It does not directly deny the firing, but says Finke's contract remains intact. (The email, though signed by Gullion, appears to have been written by Penske and refers to the claim that "I had fired Nikki Finke.")
This is a complete fabrication, with not an ounce of truth to it. Just to be clear, Nikki Finke has a multi-year contract with the Company, and it is the Company's absolute intention to continue its obligations under the agreement.
It is sad when a rival business feels the need to fabricate stories to create traffic and notoriety.
One thing's for sure: the Hollywood journalism crowd certainly had a lot to discuss on Sunday evening.