4:31pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Duck Dynasty' Producers Put on Leave at ITV Amid Fraud Investigation (Exclusive)
There's a shake-up at Gurney Productions, the company behind A&E's Duck Dynasty.
Scott and Deirdre Gurney — the founders of the reality TV production company that in 2012 was purchased by ITV for $40 million — have been temporarily suspended amid an internal fraud investigation, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Staff at Gurney Productions were told Monday afternoon that the Gurneys have been placed on a short-term leave of absence amid the internal probe. No charges have been filed. Sources tell THR the investigation concerns potential billing irregularities associated with Gurney programs.
For now, ITV has tapped 5x5 Media co-founder Craig Armstrong to serve as interim CEO of Gurney Productions. ITV America COO Chris Valentini also will help oversee Gurney Productions alongside Armstrong. Armstrong will continue to oversee unscripted producers 5x5, where it remains business as usual.
The Robertson family, which has a financial stake in Duck Dynasty, has been notified of the investigation. The news comes as the veteran and controversial unscripted series is heading into its final season at A&E.
"The board of Gurney Productions is currently in discussion with Scott and Deirdre Gurney about future arrangements with them," Gurney Productions said in a statement. "Craig Armstrong has been appointed interim CEO of Gurney Productions. Craig is an Emmy award-winning producer whose credits include King of the Nerds for TBS, CBS’ Survivor and ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Craig, along with his producing partner Rick Ringbakk, is co-founder and co-CEO of 5x5 Media, which will continue to operate as before."
U.K. broadcaster ITV bought a controlling 61.5 percent stake in U.S.-based unscripted production company Gurney in 2012. U.K. TV giant ITV reported a 4 percent third-quarter ad revenue decline, likely the result of June's Brexit vote. ITV forecast ad revenue to be down 7 percent in the fourth quarter and 3 percent for the year. Content production arm ITV Studios grew 18 percent in the quarter, driven largely by acquisitions. China's Huace Film & TV recently announced it would produce a Chinese version of an unnamed ITV Studios format as the latter continues to grow globally.
Armstrong's internal memo to staff follows: