'Duck Dynasty' Co-Creators Lose Autonomous Control of Production Company

By William Vogeler, Esq. on December 08, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Who would have thought a show about ducks would be so successful?

It surprised almost everybody, but not the 12 million viewers who tuned in for its fourth season. Phil Robertson, the star of the show, said it started as "just a bunch of rednecks shooting ducks."

"Duck Dynasty" is really a story about a family. But four years later, it's a different story as the co-creators are fighting for their television lives in ITV Gurney Holding Inc. v. Gurney.

Shots Fired

Scott and Deirdre Gurney are reality-television producers whose greatest success was Duck Dynasty. In 2012, they sold their 61.5 share of the business to ITV but continued to run the day-to-day operations.

Each was paid $500,000 a year under contracts that prohibited them from competing with the show and other restrictions. In 2016, ITV voted to fire the Gurneys for allegedly violating their contracts.

The parties sued each other, and a Los Angeles trial judge granted the Gurneys' motions to be reinstated as managers and for control. California's Second District Court of Appeal reversed the order restoring them as day-to-day managers, but allowed them to continue as board members.

The appeals court said the Gurneys have the right to visit and inspect the company's properties, books, finances and records. Until the case is resolved, the judges said, the company cannot force the Gurneys to sell their remaining shares or vote around them.

Appeals Ahead

The Gruneys' lawyer said the couple will appeal the decision taking away their daily management. Otherwise, attorney Michael Weinstein said, the appeals court affirmed their rights.

"In upholding major portions of the injunction against ITV, the Appellate Court has not only solidified the Gurneys' position as managing board members, but has also affirmed a lower court finding that the Gurneys are likely to prevail on their substantial claims against ITV," he told the Hollywood Reporter.

"Despite ITV's public posturing and misleading statements to the press, the facts in this case and court rulings have ITV running into a legal dead end," he said.

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