The ongoing battle between PMC's Jay Penske and Deadline's Nikki Finke started with a bang and is now ending with a whimper, as Finke is finally out of the motor oil heir's slippery clutches. Finke shared with me that while she's happy to be free from Deadline, she is sad over the way the separation played out, and offered parting thoughts on Penske, Deadline film editor Mike Fleming Jr., and the fact that at one point, she offered to quit online blogging entirely.
In a post on Deadline entitled "Deadline.com and Nikki Finke Parting Ways", Fleming and television editor Nellie Andreeva put up an uncharacteristically short post explaining that as of 6:26 PM today, Finke will no longer be part of Deadline. According to the pair, "Despite attempts by all to have it go otherwise, Nikki Finke will no longer be leading Deadline Hollywood, and she will not be writing weekend box office or filing stories going forward. This is an emotional and painful parting of the ways for us."
I reached out to Finke for comment, and her take on the matter was nothing less than joyful, while refreshingly snark free. Per Finke, "Today is a very, very happy day. I'm free. He [Penske] tried to buy my silence, but I said no sale."
Despite her glee at finally being extricated from what was shaping up to be a lengthy legal battle, Finke wasn't entirely without regret. "We had mediation yesterday and it didn't go well. I always thought two people could amicably separate." She went on to share that "yesterday was a very difficult day, and I was down in the dumps […] I called Penske after to see if we could have dinner and solve this." The pair did not have dinner, as Finke was unable to reach Penske by phone.
According to Finke, the quality of the site had been declining, especially during her and Penske's battle "Last week the site was hurting [so badly], there were two people running it and that was it. It was awful. […] That's what I've always been complaining about. You can't work people like that. They're doing a redesign of the site, and I've never even seen it. How do you do a redesign without me?" She went on to blame Penske's management skills both at Deadline, as well as PMC-owned Movieline as part of the problem. "He fired people without telling me, and he thinks he's just in complete and utter charge. He's in charge of Movieline and he ran it into the ground. Movieline is a bust, and no one ran it but him. He didn't bring in a Bonnie Fuller [of HollywoodLife], he didn't bring in a Michael Ausiello [of TVLine, formerly of TV Guide], he didn't bring in a Nikki Finke. It was just Penske and it went down the drain."
Apparently the protracted legal battle, which Finke alleges was all one-sided from Penske, got so messy at one point that she almost gave up blogging entirely. "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."
She had some words to share about Fleming, who penned a rather strongly-worded piece about her in Deadline a few weeks ago, in response to tweets Finke had sent out about her troubles with Penske. "When Mike wrote that thing about me, he never ran it by the staff. They told me that he never ran it by them, and he never told them and it was obviously claiming to speak for the staff but he was not, it was dictated by Penske. I will always love Mike but look, I can't be sad. I think Deadline will stand and fall on its own merits."
So what's next for Finke? And more importantly—the question on everyone's mind—when will NikkiFinke.com launch? Per Finke, "Some people might not have wanted to leave the kind of money I'm leaving on the table, but I got a lot of money and all the sale money..so this is just a relief."
Though Finke had originally planned on waiting until January as she fielded offers for the site, she tells me, "I guess I'm going to do it a lot sooner. I'm still waiting for my vacation. I had a vacation filled with legal letters and texts and phone calls. I would still like to wait and start it in January when I feel that i can really work full time. I would like to do that. I now have to negotiate offers and figure out which one I'm going to take."
Ed. Note: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Finke had dinner with Penske last night to discuss mediation over Deadline. The pair did not meet, as Finke was unable to reach him by phone.