Cumulus, Baisden Settle Payment Tussle


The long-running and oftentimes bitter battle between syndicated Urban radio personality Michael Baisden and former distribution and production partner Cumulus Media has officially ended — sort of.

In an 18-page declaration issued Wednesday evening (5/16), U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Shelley Chapman signed off on the finalization of a settlement agreement between the two parties; it will be presented for signature by Chapman on June 6.

That said, the court will accept objections to the motion, in writing, through May 30 at 4pm Eastern.

The fight between Cumulus and Baisden dates to May 2014, when the host was sued for receiving $1 million Cumulus claims he wasn’t supposed to receive. Baisden’s syndicated African-American targeted talk program, The Michael Baisden Show, enjoyed a production and distribution agreement with Cumulus from 2008-2013. At dispute are payments made to Baisden during the final 15-month period of their pact; Cumulus says the $1 million given to Baisden is the result of an accounting error.

A settlement was in the works. Talks broke down, with counter-suits flying.

The crux of the case involves a $1 million advance Radio Networks paid Baisden in July 2010 for a final contract period tied to a contract he had with the Cumulus unit. While the advance was pocketed, Cumulus paid BEI and Baisden a full $7.25 million instead of the remaining $6.25 million owed.

Cumulus requested a refund of the advance in March 2013; BEI didn’t dispute the overpayment but asked for an audit of the final contract period. After this audit, BEI made transfers to Baisden, and not to Cumulus.

A June 13, 2017 decision from Sam A. Lindsay, Dallas-based U.S. District Judge of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, significantly narrowed the issues to be tried. At the time, he called for a jury to decide a more than three-year-old lawsuit filed in a Texas Federal court against Baisden.

This resulted in a July 19, 2017 jury verdict that saw the assignment of $800,000 in damages for Baisden’s insistence that he not return a $1 million overpayment for services. One week later, Cumulus unit Radio Networks LLC asked a Dallas-based Federal judge to widen its victory over the talk host, arguing that the jury “erred” in its verdict and  “inexplicably shorted damages” from the dispute — creating a loophole that puts at risk a $1 million punitive judgement over Baisden’s fund transfers to himself, which were deemed fraudulent.

Baisden refused to accept the verdict and filed a notice of appeal on Jan. 26, 2018 in a New Orleans Federal Appeals Court. That appeal is now moot, given the settlement reached in bankruptcy court.

With Chapman’s ruling comes the admission by Cumulus that the settlement agreement “is fair and reasonable” and that litigating the appeal “would be time-consuming and costly and it is not certain that the debtors (Cumulus) would ultimately prevail.”

What is not known is the amount Baisden will be returning to Cumulus, which expects to emerge from bankruptcy protection by June 30.