Just when it appeared that the situation at UPN couldn't get any stranger, it did. UPN President and CEO Dean Valentine, who last month filed a $22 million lawsuit against his own network over contract incentives, is expected not only to remain on the job, but also fill the top programming post.
Sources say Valentine, who had been interviewing potential new entertainment presidents for the last several months, will not replace former programming chief Tom Nunan, who departed in July. He will simply take on the responsibilities himself.
Valentine, the former head of Walt Disney TV and Walt Disney TV Animation, who oversaw the development of such hits as Ellen
and Home Improvement, is well qualified to handle programming.
Industry insiders say Valentine was having a tough time luring quality candidates to the network that has suffered through ownership squabbles and that has been the focus of intense speculation about which executives will stay and which will go. Valentine has one year left on his contract and is due $2.25 million in salary this year alone. In his lawsuit, he claims UPN owes him as much as $22 million in performance bonuses.
Viacom and Paramount executives who oversee UPN are not commenting on Valentine or the rumors of a shakeup at the network. Valentine isn't talking either, but he was confronted last week in Los Angeles while on a panel of network executives.
Bill Maher, who served as the panel's moderator, bluntly said to Valentine, "So Dean, you are suing the network and yet you are still working there." After the laughter died down, Valentine responded, "Obviously it's an odd situation, but it's a contractual dispute and as weird as Hollywood is, the weirdest part of it is, it's had no effect on how the network operates and no effect on our relationship."