More than three months after Scott and Deirdre Gurney were “placed on a short, temporary leave of absence” and eventually fired from the Duck Dynasty-producing company they founded, the duo were put back in charge — sort of.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Susan Byrant-Deason issued a preliminary mandatory injunction today placing the Gurneys as “day-to-day” executives running Gurney Productions after they were pink-slipped and sued for fraud in December. While acknowledging that the Gurneys, who have countersued for $100 million, have a good chance of prevailing on their claims, the same judge also immediately put a stay on that injunction as lawyers for Gurney Productions owners ITV Gurney Holding asserted they would be likely seek a ruling on the matter from the 2nd District Court of Appeals.
The couple saw the overall results of the hearing as a win as ITV America was temporarily stopped from buying out the remainder of the Gurneys’ interest in the company they created more than a decade ago.
“The Gurneys are proud of the company they founded and are looking forward to rejoining their team to continue building upon the consistent growth they have achieved over the past 12 years,” attorney Michael Weinsten of Lavely & Singer said Monday. “We have always believed the truth was on our side and today the judge reaffirmed our position.”
“ITV respects the judge’s ruling today especially as she expressly declined to opine on the merits and instead gave a view on a preliminary issue of contractual interpretation,” an ITV spokesperson told Deadline after the hearing. “We remain very confident of success in the merits of our case, and fully expect to win once the allegations of deceit, fraud and self-dealing by the Gurneys are exposed at a full trial,” they added. “ITV is appealing the judge’s ruling, and neither Scott nor Deirdre Gurney can return to Gurney Productions while the appeal in this ruling is pending.”
ITV bought out the reality TV producers in 2012 for $40 million to take a 61.5% ownership in their company, which saw great success with one of the biggest hits in basic cable history with the often controversial, Robertson family-led Duck Dynasty. As part of the deal nearly five years ago, the Gurneys kept control of the rest of the company, had two seats on the board, and ran day-to-day operations until they were put on ice and then tossed last year under suspicion of violating non-compete agreements.
Emmy-winning producer Craig Armstrong was named interim CEO by ITV when the Gurneys were first put on what may still be a temporary leave of absence.
The Gurneys launched their big-bucks countersuit on January 14 this year, seeking $100 million and more in punitive damages and control back over their company. In their countersuit, the Gurneys said ITV and then-fellow defendants execs Brent Montgomery, Andrew Garard and David McGraynor tried to grab the couple’s interest in Gurney Productions at rock-bottom prices and also shove them out.The seven-claim, jury-trial-seeking filing from the Gurneys and their Little Win company alleges breach of contract and invasion of privacy, among others.