The legal drama between reality producers Deidre and Scott Gurney and ITV is about to start another round – probably before the holidays. Just days after the Gurney Productions founders and Duck Dynasty creators were given the axe by majority owner ITV and then slapped with a damning fraud and breach of contract lawsuit, today their lawyer says they aren’t taking any of this without a fight.
“This is a blatant, desperate attempt at intimidation by ITV, a classic greedy corporate grab, solely for the purpose of enriching one shareholder at the expense of the founders who built this company into the highly valued, sustained financial success story that it is,” said Lavely & Singer’s Michael E. Weinsten in a statement on Monday. “The claims against the Gurneys are completely baseless and fraught with contradictions, inconsistencies and outright falsehoods. My clients are considering all of their legal options and are preparing to respond accordingly.”
That last part means counter claims have not actually been filed but we hear that it may be only a matter of days before the documents are put before the court.
Sources close to the matter say that underneath the smoke that this is really all about share price and ownership of Gurney Productions, which ITV has had a 61.5% ownership in since 2012. Having pocketed $40 million, the Gurneys retain the rest of the company that holds their name. Up until last week, they also had two seats on the board as well as ran day-to-day operations – all of which they want back and to have ITV let them run the company without interference it seems, which might be difficult after all the bad public bloodletting of last week
Amidst all allegations of violating non-complete agreements is also the claim that the Gurneys were playing with millions of the company’s money for the benefit of their newly formed Snake River Productions – hence the couple being fired for cause on December 8 after a less than mild mannered board meeting.
“By engaging in these wrongful activities, the Gurneys sought to generate profits for themselves at the expense of the Company and ITV and also sought to defraud ITV by securing a substantially higher payout for themselves and their closely held company, Little Win LLC when ITV bought them out,” said the lawsuit by ITV filed the next day in LA Superior Court against the ex-CEOs.
With such a firing with cause, it seems that ITV may be able to buy out the remainder of the Gurneys stake in Gurney Productions with a double digit decrease in price. A firing without cause would mean that ITV would have to pay a more than 20% increase in the price for the 38.5% of the company the Gurneys hold – so not chump change and not smooth elbows.
The DC and SF offices of Squire Patton Boggs, LLP are representing ITV in the matter with Paul Salvaty and Poopak Nourafchan of LA’s Hogan Lovells contributing to.