Valentine kicks UPN, keeps job

As of midday last Friday Dean Valentine was still president and CEO of UPN, a day after he filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against his employer for alleged breach of contract.

But many industry observers last week were betting Valentine won't be in the post much longer. The big question seems to be what kind of severance package he'll get. Valentine took the highly unusual step last week of suing UPN, claiming that the network owes him millions in payments under a long term incentive plan that he says was promised to him when he joined the network four years ago but that was never finalized.

The suit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday. In the suit, filed on Valentine's behalf by Los Angeles attorney Dale Kinsella, Valentine claims he was promised a so-called "long term incentive plan" valued as high as $22 million depending on the ratings and profitability of the network during his tenure.

But even if does just "an O.K. job," Valentine contends he's entitled to $12.5 million under the promised incentive plan. His contract still has one more year to run. The suit claims that Valentine is entitled to the money because he "has taken a failing network with a failing strategy and turned it around."

The suit comes amid speculation that top Viacom executives are planning a major management shakeup at the network. But nobody at Viacom or Paramount would comment last week on the record. But one Paramount source said executives there believe that Valentine's compensation package is "fair and consistent" with his performance at the network. His current salary is $2.25 million, up from the $1.75 million he received his first year on the job.
- Steve McClellan