Pride Media wants payback, literally, for the fallout it claims to have experienced around freelancers for Out magazine going unpaid.
The holding company, formed after Oreva Capital purchased previous Out owner Here Publishing in 2017, told a local New York court on Tuesday that it’s been unfairly held responsible, slandered and disparaged by entities that previously produced the magazine. Claims it says are worth damages of at least $10 million.
As first reported by WWD, Out for many years was produced through what was essentially an outsourcing arrangement between Here Publishing and Grand Editorial, a production company owned by Aaron Hicklin, Out’s longtime editor in chief. Hicklin in 2017 sold Grand to McCarthy Media, owned by Evanly Schindler, and subsequently dissolved Grand. When Oreva, owned by Adam Levin, acquired Out, among other of Here’s LGTBQ publications, it continued the outsourcing contract with McCarthy until last November.
Pride claims that although it continued to make bi-monthly payments of $45,800 for print and online production of Out and $1,300 for Outtraveler.com, as well as $39,900 for print production of The Advocate on an as-requested basis, freelancers went unpaid, with invoices exceeding $120,000. The company, as it did first to WWD, argued that Schindler and his company McCarthy are responsible for the lack of payment, given the agreement in place over 2017 and 2018.
Schindler could not be immediately reached for comment.
Pride added that it became aware last fall that “untold amounts of further unpaid freelance writers and vendors was likely to surface” and soon after “the freelancers and vendors who contracted with McCarthy, but were not paid by McCarthy, began to demand payment from Pride.”
While unpaid freelancer invoices total around $120,000, Pride admitted that the amount “may be substantially higher.” It added that it paid McCarthy about $800,000 over the months of the production agreement, and that Schindler diverted the funds for his own personal gain.
While the lack of payment to freelancers constitutes a breach of contract, according to the complaint, Pride is also suing for slander and libel/disparagement, claiming Schindler “claimed falsely and in a disparaging manner” to WWD that the company was being tactical in its attempt to blame him for freelancers going unpaid, along with other comments. Pride also took issue with claims Schindler made in a follow-up story by the New York Times that his production agreement was never properly terminated.
“Schindler was personally involved in the slanderous comments where he willfully and with the malicious intent to cause plaintiff harm, published false statements to the media/press,” Pride argued.
With the publication of stories in WWD and elsewhere covering unpaid freelancers and other issues, Pride claims that “a fiction” has been created that it doesn’t pay writers. It also said that advertisers have started to cut spending.
Although the bulk of Pride’s complaint is directed at Schindler and McCarthy, Pride also named Hicklin and Grand as defendants, claiming they are “fully responsible for McCarthy’s breaches of the editorial services agreement.”
Hicklin declined to comment on the suit, having not yet seen the complaint, but he reiterated that he sold Grand to McCarthy in July 2017 and that the production agreement was reassigned at the same time.
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