Emmis sues radio personality who turned back on $3.5M offer

Indianapolis-based media company Emmis Communications Corp. has filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against popular Los Angeles radio personality Kurt Alexander, better known as “Big Boy.”

Alexander is host of the morning show on Emmis-owned radio station KPWR-FM "Power 106" in Los Angeles. Emmis' suit, filed Tuesday, seeks to block him from fleeing Power 106 for a competing L.A. station operated by iHeartMedia.

In a press release, Emmis said it "first discovered Alexander, 45, working as a body guard more than 20 years ago, and has invested substantially over the years in helping him develop into the star that he is today."

According to Emmis, Alexander's employment agreement has a “right of first refusal” provision that allows the company to match an offer from a competitor.

In mid-January, Alexander provided Emmis with a copy of an offer from iHeartMedia that would provide him an annual salary of $3.5 million, along with other benefits.

Industry website RadioWorld reported the other benefits included four weeks of vacation and “personal, private jet transportation two times a year for domestic travel, including Hawaii.”

Emmis said it matched the offer.

"Despite acknowledging Emmis’ matching offer, Alexander turned his back on his radio home of more than 20 years and plans to move to a Los Angeles-area radio station operated by iHeartMedia, which would immediately launch a new format as a direct competitor to Emmis," the company said.

Emmis said it requested a hearing and a preliminary injunction prior to the expiration of Alexander’s employment agreement on Feb 28.

“Big Boy has been a beloved member of the Emmis family for more than two decades, and we are particularly dismayed by his breach after we agreed to meet the iHeart terms,” Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan said in a written statement.  “I am personally saddened by his actions and the impact they will have on our brand and our people.”

Music website HotNewHipHop.com said Emmis might be feeling pressure to protect its brand after recently losing three other hip-hop radio personalities, including Angie Martinez and Mister Cee, who left Hot 97 in New York for rival stations. HotNewHipHop.com called Martinez "one of the biggest names in the (hip-hop) radio business."

Emmis owns 19 FM and 4 AM radio stations in New York, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Terre Haute and Austin, Texas.

Shares in Emmis fell 2 cents Wednesday, to $2.02 each.

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