Is Nikki Finke Ankling Her New Gig Already?

Does reclusive Hollywood scoopstress Nikki Finke want out of her multimillion dollar* deal with Mail.com? She says she recently turned down an offer from the Hollywood Reporter to lead the flailing trade. Her archnemesis Sharon Waxman hears they're still talking.

Back in June, Nikki Finke sold her blog, Deadline Hollywood Daily, to Jay Penske's Mail.com for $15 million no where even remotely close to $15 million. She stayed on as the site's editor-in-chief and "bring DHD to the next level." Traditionally, arrangements involving the transfer of large sums of money in exchange for property and services are conducted via a contract, which impose certain obligations on the parties.

But maybe not in this case. According to an item she posted this morning, Finke was approached by the Hollywood Reporter back in December:

[I]n early December 2009, the new owners of The Hollywood Reporter approached me about becoming the trade's new editor-in-chief. In late January 2010, they made me a very lucrative financial offer. Instead of negotiating, I set in motion a dialogue about whether there's some mutually beneficial business between my parent company MMC and the new THR owners.

Very lucrative! The weird thing is: If they approached her in December, and made the offer in late January, that means there would presumably have been some sincere discussion of the possibility of Finke jumping ship. In other words, Finke didn't immediately say, "Sorry, but I can't take a job as editor in chief of the Hollywood Reporter, because I am contractually obligated to continue in my current position as editor in chief of Deadline.com for x number of years, a contract that I entered into when I sold Deadline Hollywood Daily to Mail.com in June in exchange for $15 million no where even remotely close to $15 million." That would lead us to suspect that, somehow, for some inscrutable reason, Finke is not in fact contractually obligated to stay on at Deadline.com. Which would make Jay Penske an idiot, right?

Finke's nemesis Sharon Waxman hears that something along those lines is indeed the case: "My source tells me that Finke's employment contract with MMC doesn't have all the i's dotted and t's crossed." What's more, Waxman heard that Finke is in fact still in negotiations with the Hollywood Reporter—she e-mailed Finke for comment yesterday, which explains Finke's post this morning attempting to pre-empt and knock down Waxman's scoop.

Assuming Finke is telling the truth, and she has no intention of taking over the Hollywood Reporter—a gig that would, after all, require her to leave her home on a daily basis—then what "mutually beneficial" relationship could Penske and the Hollywood Reporter be envisioning? Maybe some sort of lease arrangement for Finke, wherein she appears as editor "courtesy of Mail.com"?

Whatever is going on in Finke-land, the news does solve one mystery, sort of: More than two weeks ago, Finke tipped her readers to an upcoming story looking into the Hollywood trades, including a lawsuit against Variety by the director of Iron Cross, who'd been conned into purchasing a $400,000 Oscar campaign from the paper:

Look for a Deadline report about The Hollywood Trades. Including news and analysis about Variety shake-up, layoffs, and today's Iron Cross lawsuit. Plus, details about changes at The Hollywood Reporter under its new ownership.

What changes at the Hollywood Reporter could she be talking about!?!? We don't know. The post never appeared. We asked Finke if that might have anything to do with the fact that she had recently been talking to the Hollywood Reporter, and that her employer still is. She replied: "I still plan on writing the piece but had to travel first." So look for it: It might explain what the hell she's been up to.

*Not a multimillion dollar deal.

UPDATE: We recently started unilaterally declaring that all our communications with Finke shall be considered on the record, irrespective of her requests to the contrary. Which means that we can now share a taste of what reporters who write about her have to endure. Here's an exchange we've had about this post with Finke. She cc'd her boss Jay Penske, Gawker founder Nick Denton, and Gawker editor Remy Stern on all of them:

From: Nikki Finke
Subject: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 25, 2010 10:47:20 PM EDT
To: John Cook , Remy Stern
Cc: xxx@corp.mail.com, Nick Denton , Nick Denton

From: John Cook
Subject: Re: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 25, 2010 10:49:36 PM EDT
To: Nikki Finke
Cc: Remy Stern , xxx@corp.mail.com, Nick Denton , Nick Denton

Thanks for writing, Nikki. Are there any factual errors you're asking me to correct?

From: Nikki Finke
Subject: Re: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 25, 2010 10:56:11 PM EDT
To: John Cook

You linked from a story that was deliberately and maliciously inaccurate.
You failed to fact-check even one fabrication in that story.
You did zero independent reporting.

From: John Cook
Subject: Re: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 25, 2010 11:02:28 PM EDT
To: Nikki Finke
Cc: xxx@corp.mail.com, Remy Stern , Nick Denton

I think your e-mails might be better directed to the party responsible for the "deliberate and maliciously inaccurate" story to which you refer. As always, please don't hesitate to let me know if you believe I've made any errors.

From: Nikki Finke
Subject: Re: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 25, 2010 11:21:34 PM EDT
To: John Cook , Remy Stern
Cc: xxx@corp.mail.com

You have once again shown here, just as Gabriel Snyder before you, that you have zero interest in correcting your deliberate and malicious inaccuracies written about me. This is your, and Gawker's, pattern. And that pattern began when MMC purchased my website.

From: John Cook
Subject: Re: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 25, 2010 11:30:43 PM EDT
To: Nikki Finke
Cc: Remy Stern , xxx@corp.mail.com, Nick Denton

Nikki, this is all well and good, and I'm sure you see all sorts of patterns everywhere you look. But we're wasting our time if you're going to continue to make vague and unspecified charges of inaccuracy without actually saying what it is that you believe I got wrong.

From: Nikki Finke
Subject: Re: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 25, 2010 11:42:14 PM EDT
To: John Cook , Remy Stern
Cc: xxx@corp.mail.com

— You should have run my entire statement which I posted on DH. You deliberately shortened it in order to leave an inaccurate impression with your readers.
— Your email to me asking for my on-the-record comment only mentioned my DH post. It did not mention Waxman's inaccurate story. You made no mention that you planned to rwrite Waxman's inaccurate story. Therefore, you gave me no opportunity to respond to you about Waxman's inaccurate story. You did this because you have zero interest in allowing me to respond to anyone's posted inaccuracies about me.
— This has been a pattern at Gawker not to allow me to respond to inaccuracies posted by its website or other media outlets which Gawker rewrites. This is deliberate and malicious.

From: John Cook
Subject: Re: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 26, 2010 12:21:06 AM EDT
To: Nikki Finke
Cc: Remy Stern , xxx@corp.mail.com, Nick Denton

Nikki, all these emails will be appended to the post, so your "response" will be published. The assertion that there is a pattern of me not allowing you to respond to my stories is a grotesque and laughable lie contradicted by reams of e-mails—most of which, at your cowardly insistence, are off the record —in my possession, not to mention the hours of phone conversations with you I've endured (likewise off the record, because you lack the courage to attempt to intimidate and harrass me with ludicrous threats of lawsuits under conditions in which you could be exposed publicly as having done so).

In this instance, as in the vast majority of your previous complaints about Gawker's coverage, you are continuing to levy charges of inaccuracy while repeatedly declining to specify the errors you claim I have made. I'll ask again—what is it, specifically, that I got wrong? I will, as always, be more than happy to update the post to address any claims of specific inaccuracies.

As for the length of the quote: I'm under no obligation to quote your or anyone else's statement in its entirety. If you care to identify the "inaccurate impression" that you believe the quote left with Gawker readers, I'll be happy to consider addressing that concern.

My post consisted on 10 paragraphs. One of them—two sentences—referred to Waxman's story. Your post this morning was little more than an extensive prebuttal to Waxman's story, and I accurately repeated your denial of what Waxman reported.

From: Nikki Finke
Subject: Re: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 26, 2010 1:01:28 AM EDT
To: John Cook , Remy Stern
Cc: xxx@corp.mail.com

You are grossly exaggerating. There are no reams of emails between us. There are no hours of phone conversations between us, either. In fact, I believe since my sale to MMC I've spoken to you on the phone no more than a few times, all but one initiated by you and only once a long phone call at your insistence. For you to claim otherwise seriously calls into question anything you have ever, or will ever, email me.

As for Gawker's attempts to malign me personally and professionally through despicable tactics like urging strangers to stalk me and lying about my journalism and a long list of other malicious business practices, I reserve my rights and remedies. But you must know that you demonstrate reckless disregard to fail to fact-check your own or others' inaccuracies and outright lies about me before publishing them.

From: John Cook
Subject: Re: Your story today is deliberately and maliciously inaccurate — again.
Date: March 26, 2010 1:20:48 AM EDT
To: Nikki Finke
Cc: Remy Stern , xxx@corp.mail.com, Nick Denton

I don't know what the date of your sale to MMC has to do with anything, but you and I have spoken on the phone for more hours than I would have liked to, Nikki. Your call to me to attempt to get Gawker to spread poison about Tad Friend in advance of his New Yorker profile of you alone was longer than an hour. (And yes, the phone calls that I initiated to you were all part of my plot to prevent you from responding to my stories by talking to you.) This exchange in itself constitutes a ream. But I suppose all the e-mails and phone records will come out in discovery. Reserve away.