Finebaum: Citadel depressed his pay, manipulated ad pricing

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The latest on Sports talker Paul Finebaum, who sued Citadel Broadcasting (now owned by Cumulus), owner of Birmingham’s WJOX-A/FM Sports Talk simulcast, which flagships his show. Court filings this week accuse Citadel of “purposefully and fraudulently” depressing his pay to generate more revenue. Citadel/Citadel Media Networks airs the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, syndicated in Alabama (27 stations), Mississippi (2 stations), Tennessee (3) and on single stations in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.


The latest filing comes just days after attorneys for Citadel accused Finebaum of needlessly suing innocent victims in an attempt to move his case back to state court, where legal standards are more favorable for him.

In this week’s filings, Finebaum repeated, in an affidavit, testimony disagreeing with that of Mary Brown, business manager of WJOX. Brown previously testified that, due to an accounting error, Citadel had accidentally overpaid Finebaum between 2007 and 2010.

But Finebaum called that testimony an “unsupported announcement” this week. He also made new claims against WJOX-FM GM Bill Thomas, alleging he implemented a new method of booking ad sales for the Finebaum Network that resulted in more revenue going to Citadel Broadcasting.

According to the Birmingham Business Journal, Finebaum also claimed Thomas banned sales staff from the visiting the floor that houses Finebaum’s offices “in an apparent attempt to hide the scheme from (Finebaum),” and that Thomas changed prices on Finebaum Network ad spots “in an apparent attempt to drive advertisers off the network and onto local spots.”

“At a time when there were available (Finebaum) Network spots, Mr. Thomas  increased advertising prices on the network, forcing advertisers to seek more reasonably priced advertising,” he testified.

The filings also include testimony from a former Citadel AE, Patrick Coyne, who testified that booking changes had reduced revenue generated by each Finebaum ad spot by approximately 50%. He also testified that Thomas instructed the staff not to discuss with Finebaum the changes or their effect.

“Eventually, Mr. Thomas made my working environment so difficult, I pursued other employment and resigned from Citadel on about Nov. 15, 2010,” he testified.

Finebaum also accuses Citadel of coercing him into signing an unfavorable amendment to his employment contract by threatening to pull his show from the air if he refused. The also alleges Citadel violated the terms of Finebaum’s employment contract by agreeing to federal bankruptcy reorganization with Finebaum’s prior consent.

His suit seeks repayment of all sums Finebaum would have received had he not signed the contract, as well as a court judgment that Citadel breached his employment contract, which would likely free him to pursue other offers: Cox Media Group made Finebaum an offer to join their new sports talker The Zone, formerly WNCB-FM The Buck. That offer is conditional on Finebaum being eligible to leave Citadel, where his contract does not expire until January 2013.

Finebaum remains on the air with Cumulus/Citadel. The show can also be watched live internet stream at MyFoxFinebaum.com. It can also be heard daily on Sirius XM Radio (Channel 91).

RBR-TVBR observation: We’ll assume that GM Bill Thomas repped the Finebaum Network nationally while also being put in charge of WJOX’s local spot inventory. Cumulus Media Newtorks does not list Finebaum’s Show on their website. But, certainly, these allegations were looked into internally by corporate. If they were found to be true, we doubt Thomas would have a job today.