Lloyd Grove writes at the Daily Beast about the latest legal trouble to hit The Blaze founder Glenn Beck — this time in the form of a countersuit by one of Beck’s most loyal and trusted advisors. Christopher Balfe, who was the chief operating officer of Beck’s Mercury Radio Arts and the chief executive of The Blaze before Beck unceremoniously fired him and then sued him, alleges in a new counter lawsuit that Beck’s “erratic behavior, excessive spending, and mismanagement” drove his media empire “into the ground.”
Balfe’s complaint—which offers an epic narrative of Beck’s climb from “a morning radio DJ to a national superstar, appearing on the covers of Time, Forbes, and [New York Times] Magazine”—focuses on a more recent period in which “Beck’s behavior became increasingly erratic and he distanced himself from the company,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Beck became obsessed with rebranding himself as an entertainment figure as opposed to a news personality, even though news is what had made Mercury millions,” it continues.
“Though Beck was known as a news personality, because of the backlash he had received from the major networks, Beck turned his back on the most lucrative part of his career, instead choosing to focus on entertainment.
“Beck began to refer to himself as Walt Disney and went so far as to paint ‘Walt’ above his door and ‘Roy’ above Balfe’s door,” the lawsuit goes on, in a reference to the entertainment legend’s older brother and business partner Roy Oliver Disney.
“Beck insisted his work with news be quashed, sometimes refusing to participate in a show entirely if it contained a news segment. He spent Mercury’s money developing films, planning amusement parks, and planning to reinvent the healthcare industry starting by building his own hospitals. In the summer of 2013, Beck even produced a live stage show called ‘Man in the Moon’ that cost over $2 million for a single night run.”
The lawsuit continues: “Beck also became suspicious of almost everyone. He began terminating employees, including those who had been with the company for more than a decade. Balfe navigated these terminations for Beck at his request, working hard to ensure that they did not result in the release of information that was embarrassing and potentially devastating for Beck’s brand.”
The narrative continues: “By 2014, Mercury faced immense cash pressures as services continued to decline, ad sales lagged, and deals fell through. Balfe watched as Beck’s erratic behavior devastated the company Balfe had spent his entire career building. In an effort to save Mercury from the mounting financial pressure, Balfe even agreed to defer his own compensation—essentially providing an interest-free loan to Mercury. Balfe deferred his compensation based on the understanding that he would be paid as soon as Mercury was less stressed by the mounting cash pressures. By the time Balfe was terminated in December 2014, Mercury owed him approximately $1.68 million in deferred compensation.
“As Beck’s paranoia increased, so did his spending. The company was spending excessive amounts to pay for unnecessary private security Beck required, and Beck insisted on leasing unnecessary office space as well as building and rebuilding himself unnecessary offices and sets. Despite Balfe’s best efforts, Mercury soon fell behind on vendor payments.”
Read the rest here.