"The Show" Hosts: Cumulus is Taking Us to Court

October 27, 2012 by

SYRACUSE -- Hunter Scott and Josh Grosvent, hosts of "The Show," say they're being sued by 95X (WAQX) owner Cumulus Media, over their recent move to crosstown competitor KROCK (WKRL/WKRH/WKLL), owned by Galaxy Communications.  According to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, the pair have been served legal papers mandating their appearance in court on Monday.

The first indications of legal action came from Hunter Scott, who also served as program director for 95X.  On Twitter yesterday, he said:

A few minutes later, Grosvent tweeted:

("Lew" refers to Cumulus Media CEO Lew Dickey, if you're wondering.)

On The Show's Facebook page, another post announced the developments:

Looks like 95X is taking "The Show" to court! They didn't renew our contracts, but claim we aren't allowed to work for 90 days either. We go in front of a judge on Monday. It will be difficult not to play [The People's Court theme song] on our iPhones during it. contacted local management at Cumulus Media to confirm the legal action, and to inquire about the basis for such action.   Operations Manager Tom Mitchell told he cannot comment on legal matters, referring us to General Manager Shane Bogardus.  Our initial inqury was also sent to Bogardus, but as of 5:30pm Saturday, we have not received a response.  (We will update if/when any response is received.)

On Twitter, Scott responded to one inquiry with this:

Recapping How Things Got Here

The chain of events started nearly two weeks ago, when Scott and Grosvent resigned from 95X after their morning show on October 16.  When confirmed their resignations for a story which ran the next day, Cumulus management said both hosts had told Cumulus that they were leaving for other interests outside of radio.

Later on October 17, Galaxy Communications dismissed three KROCK on-air staffers, including the morning host, the midday host / program director and the night host.  Thanks to trusted sources, was able to report, that night, that Scott and Grosvent would be moving to KROCK.  Galaxy confirmed that news the next day, announcing the pair would start hosting mornings on KROCK's stations in the Syracuse and Utica-Rome markets on Friday, October 19.

However, their planned 6:00am debut was delayed by about 90 minutes.  When the pair finally signed-on, they announced Cumulus Media had issued cease-and-desist orders, threatening further legal action if they started broadcasting for KROCK.  The duo contacted Galaxy CEO Ed Levine, who eventually gave them the go-ahead to sign-on.

The hosts went on to explain Cumulus accused them of failing to negotiate in good faith for a contract renewal.  The pair claims their contracts expired at the end of August, and their multiple requests for a chance to discuss a new deal received no response.  Hours later, Levine stood behind his decision, telling the Syracuse Post-Standard, "If 95X had done the right thing and offered a contract to these guys, they would still be at 95X."

Possible Legal Arguments for Cumulus

Although Cumulus has not publicly revealed the exact grounds for its legal action against Scott and Grosvent, we know one thing is almost completely off the table: in 2008, New York State banned non-compete clauses which extend beyond the length of one's employment.

We stress almost because, as legal firm Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati points out, "management employees specifically are excluded from coverage" of the non-compete ban.  Because Scott was the program director for WAQX, Cumulus could argue he was a "management employee."  But without any previous cases to provide precedent, it's anyone's guess how the court would rule.  It would also depend on whether Scott's contract had an extended non-compete clause in the first place, and if so, the length of that clause.

One national radio industry trade website doesn't think that'll happen.  Instead, predicted earlier this week that, if the case does go to court, "Cumulus is expected to argue [Scott and Grosvent] have company trade secrets regarding programming, promotions and sales strategies."

However, another national industry trade, Inside Radio, reported that an attorney for Galaxy Communications issued a letter to Cumulus, stating "Scott and Grosvent are unlikely to have any trade secrets about programming, sales or management strategies, and even if they did, Galaxy has told them to keep them to themselves."  The report also says attorney John McGowan calls Cumulus Media's "attempts to claim a right of first refusal to match the Galaxy deal also 'look a little silly' since the employees were never given the required 60-day notice that Cumulus was interested in renewing their deal."

Responding to Twitter followers, Scott says he's confident the case won't disrupt anything:

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