Sources inside Glenn Beck’s once-mighty multimedia production company say that Beck is falling apart as his media empire collapses around him.
An employee of Beck’s flagship website TheBlaze.com told Huffington Post in an article published Wednesday that the few remaining staff are “looking for an exit” because they expect the site to be shuttered soon for good.
Huffington Post’s Michelle Fields said that TheBlaze.com is “suffering from a lack of editorial direction, staff attrition and internal discord” and that the mood among employees is “somber” as they’ve watched a 25-member editorial team get whittled down to six people — with more cuts expected.
“The few people who are still left are looking for an exit because they know The Blaze is over,” the source told Fields. “They haven’t told us straight up that they’re done with us, but all the signs point to it, and they’re not replacing people who are laid off or get out.”
Other employees report that their healthcare benefits were reduced over the summer and that in September, all of their travel and phone stipends were cut off. In June, the company closed its vast New York City newsroom and the remaining employees are working from home.
TheBlaze.com was founded in 2010 as an offshoot of Beck’s then-thriving radio, television and book publishing businesses. Beck was riding high as a popular Fox News show host and bestselling author.
The website aimed to be a conservative alternative to Huffington Post and initially traffic was strong, the envy of other right-leaning websites like Breitbart.com and the Daily Caller. However, a series of poor management decisions coupled with Beck’s increasingly “erratic,” “paranoid” and “reckless” handling of his businesses have led to a mounting crisis.
The staff, said Fields, largely blame upper management for the site’s problems.
“There have been four CEOs since 2010, and two of them left in a span of six months in 2015. Beck is currently embroiled in a lawsuit with one of those former CEOs, whom he has accused of fraud and mismanagement,” she said.
“We had everything when we started in 2010 — a huge platform and following — but management screwed it up with their incompetence,” one staffer said. “They made so many stupid mistakes, and Glenn trusts the wrong people, who then go and hire other bad people.”
Management, however, insist that they have the situation well in hand and are planning a relaunch of the website called “Project Phoenix, Blaze 2.0” which will be under the editorial direction of former RedState.com Editor-in-Chief Leon Wolf.
“In spite of some bad press and the challenges ahead, the word for what we are planning has started to trickle out,” wrote Blaze CEO Stewart Padveen in a company email. “The black cloud of negativity and pessimism is slowly being replaced by a new wave of optimism about our future.”
To Huffington Post, Padveen said in an email, “The Blaze is one of the top political and cultural news websites in the U.S. with an engaged and loyal audience of millions of visitors every month. We’re very excited to welcome Leon Wolf, a celebrated and influential leader in the industry, as our new managing editor. Leon will soon begin to build out a talented team of journalists to support him as we introduce our plans for the future of The Blaze.”
Sources told Fields that they are skeptical. Managers began to talk of “Project Phoenix” more than a year ago, they said, and if a relaunch does happen, they suspect that the site will move away from news coverage.
“When The Blaze launched, Glenn said that it would be a place for reported pieces and news, but the ‘Blaze 2.0’ relaunch will be sponsored content, community-generated content, and links to videos from Glenn Beck’s Blaze TV shows,” a source said. “The Blaze as we know it is dead.”
Beck is embroiled in an acrimonious lawsuit with former business partner and protege Christopher Balfe, who says that Beck is erratic and emotionally unstable and that the former Fox News host has driven The Blaze, LLC and its parent company Mercury Arts into the ground. Balfe blames Beck’s reckless spending and fecklessness about the overall direction for his empire, which he has alternately envisioned as a media company, a theme park, a movie studio and a chain of hospitals.
“Beck insisted his work with news be quashed, sometimes refusing to participate in a show entirely if it contained a news segment,” alleges one of Balfe’s lawsuits against his former mentor. “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.”
By 2014, the sprawling and over-leveraged company was defaulting on vendor payments and falling into chaos as Beck spent more and more money on a private jetliner, an armored Maybach limousine and “unnecessary private security.”
“As Beck’s paranoia increased, so did his spending,” the suit alleges. “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.”
Beck fired Balfe in early 2015 when the two could not come to an agreement on how to save the company. The abrupt termination ended a 17-year business relationship and friendship, say Balfe’s lawyers, who are seeking $3 million in unpaid compensation.