3:24pm PT by Ashley Cullins
'Duck Dynasty' Creators Fire Back at Fraud Lawsuit
Duck Dynasty creators Deirdre and Scott Gurney are pursuing a countersuit against ITV Studios following their ouster from the company last week.
ITV acquired a majority stake in Gurney Productions in 2012 and claims the Gurneys engaged in fraud, self-dealing and misappropriated funds to drive up the cost of their remaining share of the company in the event of a buyout. After announcing a fraud investigation, ITV fired the duo and filed a lawsuit Friday.
Attorney Michael E. Weinsten told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday that the couple strongly disputes any claims of impropriety and will be pursuing substantial counterclaims against ITV.
"This is a blatant, desperate attempt at intimidation by ITV, a classic greedy corporate grab, solely for the purpose of enriching one shareholder at the expense of the founders who built this company into the highly valued, sustained financial success story that it is," says Weinsten. "The claims against the Gurneys are completely baseless and fraught with contradictions, inconsistencies and outright falsehoods. My clients are considering all of their legal options and are preparing to respond accordingly."
Under their agreement, ITV has the right to purchase the Gurneys' remaining interest in Gurney Productions for a price based on the company's earnings the prior year. While ITV says the Gurneys took actions to artificially inflate that cost, a source with knowledge of the situation says the pair will claim ITV is fabricating allegations to terminate them for cause and drive down the price before ITV's deadline to call the shares.
At the center of the fight is the Gurneys' new company, Snake River Productions.
ITV claims the couple sold ITV's international distribution rights to Discovery's Northern Territory to Snake River without telling their fellow board members they were the company's owners. ITV says the move was not only self-dealing, but also violated a noncompete clause. Meanwhile, the Gurneys are expected to argue that the newly formed Snake River is not a reality-television-based company and therefore is not competition to ITV.
The source also says the Gurneys, as they remain board members, believe they have a legal right to continue overseeing the company's operations.
ITV indicated it potentially would respond if and when the complaint is filed but had no comment at this time.