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September 13, 2011 4:22 PM

Debevoise in Nasty Spat with Nikki Finke

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: 9/15/11, 9:58 a.m., EDT. Deadline Hollywood's parent company has sued the parent company of The Hollywood Reporter, according to the Los Angeles Times. 

In a dispute with the owner of rival entertainment industry trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter, Nikki Finke, the editor in chief and president of Deadline Hollywood, has lashed out at the competition's Debevoise & Plimpton lawyers over a letter they sent her.

The Wrap recently reported on the growing dispute between Finke, a well-known and intimidating journalist who covers the studio executives and other media barons in Los Angeles, and New York–based Prometheus Global Media, which owns The Hollywood Reporter.

The feud in the fiercely competitive entertainment trade publication sector reached a new level Friday when Finke posted an online response to a letter she received from Prometheus's Debevoise lawyers accusing her of trashing The Hollywood Reporter (THR) to advertisers.

Written by Debevoise media and communications partner Bruce Keller in New York and posted on the THR Web site, the letter that sparked Finke's ire states that in "an effort to gain a competitive advantage for Deadline.com, Ms. Finke falsely has told THR advertisers and others in the Hollywood community that THR is experiencing financial problems [that] will cause it to make massive layoffs, end its print edition and/or go out of business, or be sold by Prometheus. None of this is true."

Keller's letter goes on to tout THR's financial health, claiming that the publication routinely beats Deadline in several important Web metrics, as well as in revenue generated from print advertising. The letter also accuses Finke of making threats to THR's staff and crossing "the line from unpleasant to unlawful."

In her response to Keller's letter, Finke reiterates her claims about THR's purported financial problems and alleges that employees of the publication have made misleading statements about her in the past. She closes her response by telling Prometheus and its lawyers to "get the fuck out of my face."

Keller, who declined to comment on the fight with Finke through a firm spokeswoman, is no stranger to high-profile media assignments. He has represented video game maker Take-Two Interactive in a lawsuit linked to the company's popular Grand Theft Auto video games, NFL Films in a dispute with the family of "Voice of God" announcer John Facenda, and the Association of American Publishers in litigation against Google. (Prometheus's general counsel is Michele Singer.)

Finke and her entertainment industry competitors have traded legal barbs in the past.

According to another letter Finke posted on her site, this one dated February 25, 2011, Bryan Freedman, a founding partner of L.A. firm Freedman & Taitelman, represented Deadline and its parent company when they accused Prometheus of a "continuous pattern of misappropriating content" from Deadline. (Finke sold Deadline in June 2009 to Sun Valley, Calif.–based Mail.com Media Corporation, a company owned by publishing entrepreneur Jay Penske that does business as Penske Media Corp.)

Freedman tells us that he continues to represent Deadline, whose primary concern, he says, is protecting its content and ensuring that rivals "are not stealing our information" and breaking news stories. Freedman believes that Debevoise's latest missive to Deadline is a response to his February 25 letter to THR.

The Wrap, which first reported on the escalating row between Finke and THR, has also had its battles with Finke.

Earlier this year, the site, spearheaded by former New York Times and Washington Post journalist Sharon Waxman, retained leading entertainment lawyer Bert Fields from Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger to respond to a cease-and-desist letter sent by Freedman on behalf of Deadline that accused The Wrap of misappropriating Deadline content.

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