Ruling leaves Howie Carr in limbo
Jessica Heslam By Jessica Heslam
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
A Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled today that WRKO radio was entitled to exercise the right to match provision in Howie Carrs contract, which allows the station to meet a competitors offer and leaves the popular talk show host in limbo.
Its unclear whether Carr will take over the morning drive show on Greater Medias WTKK (96.9 FM) tomorrow.
Said WRKO (680 AM) spokesman George Regan: We hope Howie will continue his show on WRKO radio.
The right to match clause in Carrs contract with WRKO, which is owned by Entercom Communications, gives the station the right to meet a competing salary offer within 180 days from any radio or TV station within WRKOs coverage area.
The judge said Carr could have quietly met with Greater Media to discuss or negotiate his future while his WRKO agreement was still operative.
What Carr could not do is what he did here: receive and accept an offer from Greater Boston Radio Inc. before his Artists Agreement had terminated, the judge wrote.
Shepard Davidson, an attorney for WRKO, declined comment today. Carr attorney Bret Cohen could not be reached.
Carrs attorneys argued that the right to match and non-compete provisions were illegal and unenforceable under state law and pointed to a statute that prohibits the enforceability of post-employment restrictions against people who work in the broadcast industry.
But the statute says a broadcast employee can go to work for a competitor after they have been terminated by their employer, terminated by mutual agreement or their contract expired. Carrs contract with WRKO expired today and he made a deal to jump to WTKK in July.
The Artists Agreement still has not been terminated by Entercom, or by mutual agreement of Entercom and Carr, or by the expiration of the Agreement itself, Judge Allan van Gestel wrote in todays 18-page ruling.
The judge wrote that Entercom Communications was allowed to exercise its right to match WTKKs offer while Carrs agreement with WRKO was still fully operative for two more months.
That exercise continued the Artists Agreement in effect well beyond September 19, the judge wrote. And it is not a post-employment restriction.
For Carr to receive protection, under the state statute, the judge wrote, in the circumstances presented here would require this Court to ignore the fact that his Artists Agreement has not terminated.
However, the judge said the non-compete clause in Carrs agreement is unenforceable under state law after Carrs contract with WRKO ends.
The judge said he wasnt ruling on whether Carr is compelled to stay working at WRKO.
Carr and WRKO have been embroiled in a legal battle since July when WTKK offered him a five-year contract worth about $7 million to host the slot left vacant by fired shock jock Don Imus. WRKO matched the rival stations offer the following day.
Carr filed a lawsuit against WRKO in July claiming his contract with the station contained illegal provisions that prohibit him from working at competing stations. The suit also claimed the station failed to extend his contract several times.
WRKO then filed a countersuit to block him from jumping ship, claiming Carr and his agent, Cary Pahigian, conspired to break his contract by negotiating with WTKK. Carr was set to debut tomorrow morning on WTKK.
Turn to The Messenger blog (in the Herald) for updates.
A Suffolk Superior Court ruling today leaves Herald columnist and radio personality Howie Carrs future on the airwaves in Boston in limbo