Adell Broadcasting, parent of Detroit urban station WADL and cable channel The Word Network, is suing Petry Media Corp. and its subsidiary Blair Television in an attempt to recoup a $1.5 million upfront fee it says it paid the ad sales firm.
CEO Kevin Adell says he paid Petry’s then-chairman and CEO Earl Jones that sum in June. WADL played up the Petry partnership at its New York upfront presentation—the first time WADL held such a gala—at the Rainbow Room in July.
Jones left Petry a few weeks after the upfront presentation (a Petry spokesperson says he retired due to “personal reasons”), and Adell says his investment disappeared. The lawsuit says Adell was told he’d see a full return on investment in 12-18 months.
Adell has hired the Chicago law firm Winston & Strawn for the lawsuit, which was filed in Michigan’s Macomb County. “They’re the ones wearing the black hat—they took a million-five of my money and they didn’t perform,” Adell says. “I believed in those guys.”
Adell says he paid the $1.5 million based on Jones’ reputation in the industry. He says Jones promised to tap his network of business contacts to dig up “unwired buys,” meaning business not tied to ad agencies. When Jones left Petry, Adell inquired about getting his money back. “They said they didn’t have it,” he says.
Petry President/CEO Val Napolitano referred inquiries to a Petry communications person, who said the firm does not “specifically comment on pending litigation.”
It’s been a trying year for Petry, which has seen Gannett shift its business to Telerep and 24 Nexstar stations shift to Katz, among other defections. On the plus side, Petry has signed up the rural America cable channel RFD as an ad partner.
WADL was a home shopping station before relaunching as an urban station last year, showing the likes of Chappelle’s Show and Sanford & Son. The Word Network is a gospel channel on cable.
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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