11:32am PT by Ashley Cullins
'Duck Dynasty' Creators Sue ITV for $100M, Claim Extortion
Duck Dynasty co-creators Scott and Deirdre Gurney are following up on their promise to sue ITV Studios following their ousting from the company amid fraud allegations — and they're seeking more than $100 million in damages.
The Gurneys claim they were ambushed with bogus allegations of impropriety in a December board meeting in a board member's attempt to usurp their company, according to a complaint filed Tuesday in Los Angeles Superior Court.
ITV acquired a majority stake in Gurney Productions in 2012. The company fired the Gurneys and sued in December, claiming the couple were engaging in self-dealing and fraud to drive up the cost of their remaining share of the company in the event of a buyout.
In their complaint, the Gurneys say it's ITV that is trying to change the cost of those shares in its favor. ITV board members Brent Montgomery, Andrew Garard and David McGraynor also are named as defendants in the suit.
"This case arises from an outrageous campaign of intimidation and extortion ... to illegally acquire a 40% stake in Gurney Productions at a grossly deflated price," states the complaint. "Specifically, Defendants Montgomery, Garard and McGraynor presented the Gurneys with an agreement for ITV to purchase their minority share at well below the contracted-for price, and then threatened to go 'public' with bogus allegations of fraud and 'embezzlement' if the Gurneys did not sign the deal that very day."
The Gurneys' attorney, Michael Weinsten, on Tuesday sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement. "The actions taken by ITV and its appointed board members are reprehensible," says Weinsten. "My clients will not be intimidated by their outrageous, strong-arm tactics to acquire my clients' interest in Gurney Productions at a massively discounted price. We will hold each of these defendants personally accountable for the many millions in economic damages to my clients, and damage to their good name and reputation."
The Gurneys are suing ITV for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and civil extortion, among other claims. In addition to nine-figure damages, the Gurneys also want the court to issue an injunction that would allow them to regain day-to-day control of Gurney Productions.
ITV on Tuesday issued a statement in response to the lawsuit: "Though this filing comes as no surprise as the Gurneys attempt to salvage their reputation, ITV absolutely refutes all of the allegations in this claim as completely baseless and without merit. We will be vigorously pursuing the lawsuit we filed against Scott and Deirdre Gurney in December, following the termination of their employment, on the grounds of self-dealing, fraudulent concealment and breach of contract."
ITV also says Gurney Productions is back to business as usual under the leadership of interim CEO Craig Armstrong.
The full complaint is below.