On August 8, 2010, IBCR first reported here on a lawsuit filed by sports talk radio host Paul Finebaum against his employer, Citadel Broadcasting Co., the parent company of WJOX in Birmingham. WJOX hosts the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, a nationally syndicated radio show. The suit was filed in the Northern District of Alabama US District Court.
As noted in the IBCR post of August 8, the case had been sealed by the Court, preventing public access to case filings. Capstone Report learned that a request had been filed by a third party to unseal the case and that the Court was expected to rule on the motion yesterday:
The Birmingham Business Journal has asked a federal court judge to unseal the lawsuit filed by Paul Finebaum against WJOX owner Citadel.
According to a Business Journal report, “The Birmingham Business Journal has filed a request with the court to unseal the case, and a court official said the judge would issue a ruling on issues in that motion Thursday. However, it was not clear if any other judgments related to the case would be rendered and the BBJ has not been notified of a ruling as of 12:30 p.m.”
At 2:20 pm CDT yesterday, the Court ruled that there was no reason to keep the case under seal and ordered it opened, but gave the parties until noon today to file redacted documents and remove confidential financial and other sensitive information.
According to court documents obtained by IBCR, Finebaum alleges negligence, conversion (a civil tort of theft of property), wantonness (action taken with reckless disregard for the consequences), fraudulent misrepresentation and suppression. The defendants deny the claims and accuse the plaintiff of negligence himself and failure to exercise due diligence.
Adding to the drama of a nasty legal dispute are strong rumors circulating among broadcast industry insiders that Finebaum seeks an exit to his 2007 contract with Citadel and has reached an agreement in principle to move PFRN to WNCB 97.3 FM. That station, said to be struggling under the “New Country” music format, is owned by Cox Radio Interactive of Atlanta, Georgia and has already taken steps to move to a sports radio format.
Capstone Report also found yesterday that Eli Gold—the Alabama Football Radio play-by-play announcer—has reached a deal with Cox to host a radio show on 97.3 beginning next Wednesday.
WJOX has been a longtime market heavyweight in Birmingham sports radio and is an ESPN Radio affiliate. Recently, WNSP in Mobile, Alabama bolted from ESPN Radio as programming quality remained flat and uninteresting to southern sports fans. WNSP subsequently joined Sporting News Radio, which was recently combined with Yahoo! Sports to create Yahoo! Sports Radio. Speculation among industry insiders is that Birmingham’s 97.3 may be making the move to Yahoo! and adding PFRN to its lineup would represent a significant challenge to WJOX’s reign in the Magic City.