Playing hardball, USA Networks Inc. last week sued its
former president of entertainment, Rod Perth, seeking to recover a $1.28 million severance
package it shelled out to him in April.
The breach-of-contract lawsuit, filed in U.S. District
Court in Chicago, alleged that Perth led USA to believe he "had no imminent prospect
of employment" when the lump-sum settlement was being negotiated.
In reality, the suit charged, Perth was deep in talks with
his next employer. The settlement was reached and Perth was paid April 22. One week later,
he was appointed the new president of Jim Henson Television Group Worldwide.
Now, USA is looking to recoup that $1.28 million, and it is
seeking $3.4 million in damages, as well.
USA asked Perth to step down last June, several months
after chairman Barry Diller brought in Stephen Chao as president of programming. Perth had
a four-year contract extension that ran through October 2001.
USA agreed to pay Perth his base salary and guaranteed
bonuses until he found another post or his deal expired.
But Perth pushed for a lump-sum payment, which USA said it
didn't want to pay, since the company knew it had no further obligation to him if he
got a new job.
Nonetheless, USA finally agreed to the lump sum in April.
According to the suit, USA "was assured throughout the
negotiations that although Perth was actively seeking employment, there was no imminent
prospect of employment, and Perth remained concerned about his ability to obtain
A USA spokeswoman said the company doesn't comment on
pending litigation, as did a spokesman for Perth.