Paul Finebaum is suing Citadel Broadcasting, owner of Birmingham’s WJOX-A/FM Sports Talk simulcast, which airs Finebaum’s popular sports talk show, according to court documents.
A federal judge unsealed the case 8/25 and gave parties until noon Friday to file redacted versions of court documents to redact confidential financial and income amounts. According to court filings, the amount in controversy in the case exceeds $75,000. The suit claims the host was coerced into signing an unfavorable amendment to his employment contract by threatening to pull his show from the air.
According to court documents, Finebaum signed the amendment 2/16, months after a U.S. bankruptcy court approved a plan to reorganize Citadel’s unaffordable debts.
“Citadel’s unconscionable ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ threat and coercive tactics put Finebaum under extreme duress,” Finebaum’s attorneys argue in court filings. “Finebaum was left with no viable economic option other than to sign.”
The suit alleges Citadel breached the contract by failing to get Finebaum’s permission before seeking bankruptcy reorganization and protection.
In court filings, Citadel denied those allegations, demanding proof and calling the them “baseless” in a letter to Finebaum’s attorney, reported The Birmingham Business Journal.
“Citadel fully expects Mr. Finebaum to continue to honor the commitments to Citadel he willingly and knowingly made when he entered into his employment agreement and the amendments thereto,” wrote Christopher Sova, Citadel’s senior counsel, in letter to Finebaum’s attorney.
The case since was initially filed last month. Jefferson County court officials said the case originated as two separate suits filed July 6 and Aug. 4 in Circuit Court and assigned to Circuit Judge J. Scott Vowell. For unknown reasons, it was originally sealed and transferred to the Alabama Northern District Court, where public records showed it had been assigned to Federal Judge L. Scott Coogler.
The show is syndicated in Alabama (27 stations), Mississippi (2 stations), Tennessee (3) and on single stations in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. The show can also be watched live internet stream at MyFoxFinebaum.com. It can also be heard daily on Sirius XM Radio (Channel 91).
Meanwhile, WJOX GM Bill Thomas, in a prepared statement, said Citadel has a positive and productive relationship with Finebaum, whom Thomas considers a friend.
“I feel very confident that the actions of Citadel and its employees with respect to Paul have been appropriate, and I expect that to be demonstrated if his lawsuit continues,” he said.
Thomas said Citadel looks forward to Finebaum fulfilling his contract with Citadel through January 2013.
RBR-TVBR observation: Why seal the case originally? It simply could have been that both parties agreed, considering it was negative press for both of them. The suit discusses coercion and bankruptcy issues at Citadel and the Feinbaum being under “extreme” duress—not great for a syndicated talk radio host.