The dismissed founders of ITV America-owned US prodco Gurney Productions have followed up on their promise to take legal action against its parent company ITV, filing a US$100m lawsuit.
Scott and Deirdre Gurney are seeking more than US$100m in damages and control back over their company after they were dismissed in December for allegedly violating non-compete agreements.
ITV is suing the couple for fraud amid an internal financial investigation.
The Gurneys allege that ITV is trying to change the cost of shares in the company in its favour. ITV board members Brent Montgomery, Andrew Garard and David McGraynor also are named as defendants in the suit.
“The actions taken by ITV and its appointed board members are reprehensible,” said the Gurneys’ attorney Michael Weinsten, of Lavely & Singer, in a statement of complaint filed at the LA Superior Court.
“My clients will not be intimidated by their outrageous, strong-arm tactics to acquire my client’s interest in Gurney Productions at a massively discounted price. We will hold each of these defendants personally accountable for the many millions in economic damages to my clients, and damage to their good name and reputation.”
ITV yesterday issued a statement in response to the lawsuit that read: “Though this filing comes as no surprise as the Gurneys attempt to salvage their reputation, ITV absolutely refutes all of the allegations in this claim as completely baseless and without merit.
“We will be vigorously pursuing the lawsuit we filed against Scott and Deirdre Gurney in December, following the termination of their employment, on the grounds of self-dealing, fraudulent concealment and breach of contract.”
ITV’s lawsuit alleges that the Gurneys secretly established a new company, Snake River Productions, last August that was competing with Gurney Productions, the firm behind Duck Dynasty that ITV bought for US$40m in 2012.
It also claims that, one month later, Snake River bought distribution rights to reality show Northern Territory from Gurney Productions for US$3.6m to inflate Gurney’s EBITDA.
ITV has brought in 5×5 Media co-founder Craig Armstrong to serve as interim CEO of Gurney.
The revelations came after A&E brought down the curtain on Gurney’s reality hit Duck Dynasty in November, with the 11th season set to be its last.