Who’s Nikki Finke?

Nikki Finke is an authority on the business, politics and culture of the entertainment industry. Her journalism career has included positions around the world with the most powerful and influential media outlets. As an Associated Press foreign correspondent, she worked in Moscow and London. As a Newsweek correspondent in Washington DC and Los Angeles, she covered wars and even occasionally the White House. Beginning in 1986, she started reporting on the entertainment business, first for Newsweek, and then the Los Angeles Times. By 1994 she was West Coast Editor and Hollywood columnist first for the New York Observer and then for New York Magazine.

Nikki joined LA Weekly as its Deadline Hollywood columnist in 2002 when a lawsuit she waged against Disney, News Corp and the New York Post rendered her near-unhireable. In March 2006, she started Deadline Hollywood Daily, the online version of her print column. For the next three years the media alternated between glee and scorn for her many major scoops. Dow Jones’ Marketwatch called her the Hollywood "must-read." A flattering profile in Los Angeles magazine claimed she’d “become essential reading for those who follow the Industry”. Her ability to break news during the writer’s strike cemented her status as the most powerful journalist covering Hollywood, according to media organizations. The New York Observer decided to name her "Media Mensch Of The Year". 

In 2009, Nikki’s blog was purchased by PMC (formerly known as Mail.com Media), then a small digital media company founded by Jay Penske. She went from being her own boss to the site’s General Manager, Editor-In-Chief, and Founder. Slowly Nikki and new owner Penske began to recruit stellar staff. At the same time, Nikki and Deadline became regularly included on lists of top entertainment websites ranging from Vanity Fair to Time Magazine. Influential industry leaders and key decision-makers across many fields tracked Nikki’s Deadline many times a day as it became the authoritative source for breaking news and insider analysis/commentary in the entertainment industry. Its postings regularly received more reader comments than all of the  entertainment industry news sites combined. Finke knew that she and her site had arrived when the HBO show Entourage devoted many episodes of the show to her doppelganger and her website. Since then there’s been a long list of movies and TV trying to get a piece of her.

Nikki succeeded in putting Penske on the front pages of both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. Not only is she one of the listed opinion-makers on The Drudge Report, but she became the subject of a 10,000 word profile for The New Yorker. When Forbes magazine came out with its roster of “The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women”, Nikki was #79 – or higher than the Presidents of Iceland, Costa Rica, and Liberia.

Nikki’s professional relationship with Penske changed dramatically in 2012 when he bought the competing Variety and began devoting resources and staff to it instead of Deadline. Working 22-hour days, not getting weekends off, not allowed to take vacations, Nikki was burned out. For a 58-year-old woman  who is an insulin dependent diabetic with conditions (decreasing vision), she was exhausted from working extra hours on administrative tasks that she had been assured wouldn’t exist much longer. But they did, and she wound up in the hospital. Throughout 2013, Penske didn’t bother to replace the site’s General Manager but still expected Finke to continue this Herculean task and run/write for the site.

Finally, in late October 2013, the die was cast. One day after Nikki accepted Penske’s most recent settlement, he removed the Deadline tweet feed from her personal Twitter account, threw her off the website’s administrative page, and saw to it that her stories went into the trash. A week later, an unsuccessful mediation led both sides to openly wonder if they had a future together. The next day, Penske surprised and dismayed Nikki by terminating her Deadline employment and announcing her exit on Deadline and Variety. She was held to a non-compete until June 2, 2014.

During these past 7 months, Nikki took care of her health, traveled and began preparing for arbitration with PMC. Both sides appeared anxious for an early resolution, and 25 different settlement offers passed through the two camps. At the same time Penske mailed threatening legal letters to businesses he thought would try to hire her. As early as the night of June 11th, 2014, PMC was still negiotiating with Nikki for her return to Deadline Hollywood. But they couldn’t agree and Finke started NikkiFinke.com the next day. Now the two sides will square off in arbitration in November.

Nikki, a native New Yorker and graduate of Wellesley College, moved to Los Angeles in 1986 when she wrote her first Hollywood business stories. about Hollywood. She has taught journalism and had her own radio show on Southern California’s public radio station KCRW.