New York -- Haim Saban, chairman of Fox Kids Worldwide,
testified last week that ex-Nick at Nite official Rich Cronin is 'growing stale'
and more out of touch with the television industry the longer he is prevented from joining
Fox Family Channel as president. So, Saban wants Cronin now.
Saban and Fox Kids are fighting a bid by MTV Networks,
Cronin's former employer, to prevent Cronin from working for Fox Family immediately.
MTVN went to New York Supreme Court to get an injunction barring Cronin, former president
of Nick at Nite's TV Land and general manager of Nick at Nite, from starting at Fox
Family until July 1, when the contract that he had with MTVN was to have expired.
'This is a very dynamic industry, where know-how
becomes stale very quickly,' Saban said. 'Rich Cronin is sitting on the
sidelines with his know-how going stale.'
That's why Saban -- who lured Cronin with a package
valued at up to $20 million in salary, bonuses and stock options -- said he wants the
ex-TV Land official to join Fox Family pronto. Saban also testified, in hearings continued
from December, that Cronin had every intention of fulfilling his contract with MTVN to its
end, June 30, even though he had signed a deal with Fox Family -- which offered to pay him
a $500,000 signing bonus, as well as up to $2 million per year in salary and bonuses. But
MTVN fired Cronin in October, just days after he signed with Fox.
Saban said that when he first approached 14-year MTVN
veteran Cronin about the Fox Family job in August, Cronin 'made it clear that he had
a contract and that he intended to work through the end of it.'
At the time, the July 1 start date was acceptable,
according to Saban, because he assumed that Cronin would be working at MTVN in the interim
and maintaining his industry relationships. Now, Saban said, 'I changed my mind on
this matter,' because Cronin has been unable to work, pending the outcome of the
MTVN claimed that Cronin breached his contract by signing
an agreement in October to join Fox Family -- a direct competitor to Nickelodeon -- after
his MTVN deal expired. Cronin contended that he should be able to start work at Fox Family
and Fox's kids' broadcast network immediately because MTVN terminated him.
Saban's testimony echoed that of Cronin in December,
when Cronin also testified that he had every intention of fulfilling the last nine months
of his MTVN contract.
During last Thursday's hearing, Saban testified, under
cross-examination by MTVN lawyers, that he approached -- and was turned down by -- a
number of executives about the Fox Family job before going to Cronin, including E!
Entertainment Television president Lee Masters and Albie Hecht, president of film and TV
entertainment at Nickelodeon.
And at the same time that he was offering Cronin the job,
Saban said he had also extended an offer for the same post to Linda Mancuso, NBC's
vice president of Saturday-morning and family programming -- a fact he admitted under
cross-examination that he failed to mention in his deposition in November.
MTVN is contending that there is no way that it could have
permitted Cronin to stay on until the end of his contract, since he was planning to leave
to join a rival of Nickelodeon, Fox Family. Last year, Fox Kids, owned by Saban
Entertainment and News Corp., paid $1.9 billion to buy The Family Channel in order to
transform it into a kids' network during daytime hours, starting in August.
In its suit, MTVN alleged that Cronin will give Fox Family
'trade secrets' about Nick. But Saban testified that there weren't any
trade secrets in the television industry, which is heavily reported on in the trade press,
and that he 'can turn on the TV' to see what's going on at Nickelodeon.
He also denied that he's trying to create a
'clone' of Nickelodeon. Fox Family's new schedule will have a major
kids' component, but it will air original sitcoms and reality-based shows in
primetime and a movie a night, Saban said.
The hearings will continue this Tuesday, with
Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite president Herb Scannell scheduled to testify.
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