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The suit alleges that the longtime host, whose real name is Kurt Alexander, told his bosses at Emmis Radio LLC that he was planning on jumping ship to iHeartMedia, a competitor that owns hundreds of stations including L.A.'s KIIS-FM.
In the 14-page complaint, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Tuesday, lawyers representing the radio group claim that Alexander refused their counter-offer and violated his agreement, which runs through Feb. 28, 2015.
According to the complaint, Alexander's contract provides him a 60-day window at the end of its contract to entertain offers from other broadcasters, on the condition that he provide Emmis with a copy of any offer received and a right to match the offer.
Under Alexander's current agreement, he receives a base salary of $1.45 million per year, "plus substantial bonuses, an automobile allowance and other fringe benefits," according to the suit.
About a month ago, the lawsuit says, Alexander's lawyer sent Emmis a copy of an offer from iHeartMedia to anchor a direct competitor in Los Angeles for an annual salary of $3.5 million, along with other benefits. Emmis maintains that it matched the iHeartMedia offer within five days but that Alexander said he intended to take the competing offer.
The suit states that "the loss of Alexander to a new, competing radio station ... would cause immediate, substantial, irreparable and non-quantifiable harm to Emmis," such as cuts in advertising revenue and harm to its brand in the Los Angeles radio market. The suit seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent Alexander from joining iHeartMedia.
"God knows I LOVE YOU ALL!" he wrote. "I'm crushed and I do care for you guys. Y'all have shown me so much love and I respect throughout the years...My LOVE for you isn't just words or ratings. This is bigger than a radio logo. You're my Family. I NEED y'all to survive and be happy. I'm hurt. I'll be able to tell the real ... soon."
Calls and an email to Alexander's representative were not immediately returned.
"Big Boy has been a beloved member of the Emmis family for more than two decades, and we are particularly dismayed by his breach after we agreed to meet the iHeart terms," Jeff Smulyan, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Emmis Communications, said in a statement. "I am personally saddened by his actions and the impact they will have on our brand and our people."
Emmis Communications owns 19 FM and four AM radio stations in New York; Los Angeles; St. Louis; Indianapolis; Austin, Texas, and Terre Haute, Ind. The company has lost big-name hosts before. Last year, radio hosts Angie Martinez and DJ Mister Cee left Emmis-owned New York station Hot 97.