As you will remember, Talk Radio Network filed a Federal action against its former ad sales rep Dial Global (now WestwoodOne and owned by Cumulus) and multiple other parties 8/27/12, asserting antitrust, anti-monopoly and other claims. The last we had heard of the suit’s status was a mid-November pre-trial conference discussing settlement options, exploring motions, arranging a plan for discovery and setting a trial date. Now a 4/2 hearing has been set to consider the defendants’ (Dial Global, Compass Media Networks, WYD Media Management) motions filed last month to dismiss and strike the suit out of existence.
The original complaint (which demands a jury trial), “Complaint for Violations of the Sherman Act and the Cartwright Act, and for Fraudulent Inducement, Interference with Contract and Interference with Prospective advantage,” named: Dial Global, Excelsior Radio Networks, Triton Radio Networks, Triton Media Group, Oaktree Capital Management, Verge Media Companies, Courtside, LLC, Compass Media Networks, Compass Media Marketing, WYD Media Management (Ron Hartenbaum), Spencer Brown, Ken Williams, David Landau (of DG, all since departed from the company), Norm Pattiz (of Courtside), Peter Kosann (of Compass) and Ron Hartenbaum personally.
Courtside and Norm Pattiz were subsequently dismissed from the suit.
Talk Radio Network CEO Mark Masters blamed TRN’s financial problems on Dial Global and had said that info gathered from the discovery process in the suit will help him stop Cumulus’ buy of WestwoodOne/DG. As well, Guarang Shah, a Dial Global shareholder, hit the company’s board with a proposed class action in New York state court 9/18, alleging they breached their fiduciary duties by agreeing to sell the company to Cumulus. The fact that the buy still went through says a lot, though.
RBR-TVBR observation: If the judge doesn’t dismiss the suit, the case will rely a lot on the auditing of ad contracts and written contracts between the parties–just to find out what monetary damages are on the table. Bear in mind–this may not get settled out of court, because DG’s/WWO/Cumulus’ pockets are deeper than TRN’s. How long can TRN pay for the war, given it has lost a lot of talent and news programming (ARNN) over the last year?
DG, Compass and WYD are likely going to show that there is not a monopolistic environment out there as TRN claims, listing off all of the competition in the industry, the tough ad environment and showing that the Cumulus buy of WestwoodOne was approved (although Cumulus noted that the Antitrust Division of DOJ is still conducting a review of the transaction).