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Emmis settles lawsuit with radio personality 'Big Boy'

January 20, 2016

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

Emmis officials confirmed the settlement Wednesday but declined to disclose terms of the agreement or comment on the matter. The company had been seeking $5 million.

Alexander was a highly popular host of the morning show on Emmis-owned radio station KPWR-FM "Power 106" in Los Angeles. He was with the station for more than 20 years before suddenly leaving a year ago to join a rival L.A. station operated by iHeartMedia.

Power 106’s ratings sank dramatically after Alexander’s departure, from fifth overall in the market to 16th by the end of the year.

Emmis said Alexander broke his employment agreement when he left.

According to Emmis, Alexander's contract had a “right of first refusal” provision that allowed 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, but Alexander decided to leave anyway. The company sought to block the move with its suit, but was unsuccessful. He began a competing morning show on Urban KRRL-FM “Real 92.3” in March.

The loss was more than financial for Emmis, which discovered Alexander when he was working as a bodyguard more than two decades ago and invested millions to help turn him into a radio star.

Competition for successful on-air talent can be fierce, especially for morning radio shows in major media markets.

“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 in February.  “I am personally saddened by his actions and the impact they will have on our brand and our people.”

On Jan. 6, Emmis reported quarterly revenue of $59.6 million, down from $63 million in the same period a year ago. The company attributed most of the decline to the “situation in Los Angeles” and said it cut 32 employees and chopped the pay of all senior executives to make up for the shortfall.

Emmis shares were down 6 cents Wednesday, to 49 cents. The stock has fallen 50 percent since Oct. 22.





 

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