No valentine to UPN

President/CEO sues his own network, claims he's owed millions

As of noon Friday, Dean Valentine was still president and CEO of UPN, a day after he filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against his employer for alleged breach of contract.

But many industry observers were betting last week he won't be in the post much longer. The big question seems to be what kind of severance package he'll get.

Valentine took the highly unusual step last week of suing his employer, claiming that the network owes him millions in payments under an incentive plan he says was promised to him when he joined UPN four years ago but was never finalized.

Filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Valentine's behalf by Los Angeles attorney Dale Kinsella, the suit claims he was promised a "long-term incentive plan" valued as high as $22 million (if he did an "exceptional job") hinged on the network's ratings and profits. His suit claims UPN lost $190 million in 1997, the year he joined. Now, the suit says, UPN's operating losses improved by $40 million in 2000 and will increase "by at least" another $50 million in 2001. His contract has one more year to run.

The suit says he "has taken a failing network with a failing strategy and turned it around."

The lawsuit comes amid speculation that Viacom is planning a major management shakeup at the network. Nobody at Viacom or Paramount would comment on the record.

A Paramount source said that executives consider Valentine's compensation "fair and consistent" with his performance. His current salary is $2.25 million, up from the $1.75 million he received his first year..