Nearly six years is an eon in the digital world, but after first filing a breach-of-contract and age-discrimination suit against KTLA-TV and owner Tribune Media back in early 2013, the man once widely known in SoCal and around America as Kurt the Cyberguy got a multimillion-dollar 2.0 reset from a jury.
After just three hours of deliberation Thursday, a collection of Kurt Knutsson’s peers in Los Angeles Superior Court awarded the TV tech personality just over $3.9 million in his battle with the local station that was his home for decades and its Chicago-based owners.
“I could not stop crying,” Knutsson said today at the offices of his lawyers Gloria Allred, Nathan Goldberg and John West of Judge Gregory Alarcon’s ruling. “I was overwhelmed because I was finally vindicated,” the now-Fox & Friends contributor added over seven years after KTLA suddenly pink-slipped him after 16 years talking tech on-air for them and a syndication of around 24 stations across the nation.
“I felt that the jury understood all that I had endured,” he said. “I had spent 14 years building a national brand as ‘Kurt the CyberGuy.’ KTLA took everything I had built away from me overnight.”
KTLA and Tribune aren’t exactly powering down over the December verdict though.
“We respectfully disagree with the verdict and intend to appeal,” Tribune spokesperson Gary Weitman told Deadline today.
That potentially messy appeal will come as Tribune is absorbed by Nexstar in a $4.1B acquisition confirmed earlier this week.
The move to can Knutsson and stealthily replace him came very soon after he and KTLA had landed a hefty sponsorship deal with AT&T for the Cyberguy segments over seven years ago. Under that deal and the ad revenue clause in the five-year contract that Knutsson inked with the Tribune owned station in 2008, the Cyberguy was to get a chunky piece of that action. However, following a shafting of his contract in late 2010, Knutsson was terminated by KTLA in a phone call from news director Jason Bell in February 2011.
While some residual Kurt the Cyberguy reports trickled out over the following weeks, almost immediately all online links to his material on Tribune stations went to a segment starring another consumer technology reporter, the much younger Rich DeMuro. Those new segments were filmed, formatted and branded in the same fashion as the initial Cyberguy material had been.
Knutsson first filed his complaint in LASC in February 2013, but he had to take it to California’s Court of Appeal to stop from being forced into arbitration by KTLA and Tribune. The defendants lost that round in August 2014 after a a three-judge panel ruled KTLA and Tribune had “forfeited” their right to make the original Cyberguy settle the matter behind closed doors.
That decision lead directly to the open court case and this week’s new loss by KTLA and Tribune.
KTLA and Tribune were represented by attorneys from the LA offices of Barnes & Thornburg.