Nikki Finke, a must-read entertainment journalist and the founder of Deadline, died at the age of 68.
Nikki Finke, the fearsome entertainment columnist whose uncompromising style and razor-sharp scoops helped Deadline, the trade site she founded in 2006, become one of Hollywood's most important news sources, died early Sunday morning. Unsurprisingly, Deadline broke the story first, adding that Finke had been battling an unspecified illness for some time. She was 68 years old.
"At her best, Nikki Finke embodied the spirit of journalism, and was never afraid to tell the hard truths with an incisive style and an enigmatic spark," said Jay Penske, founder and CEO of Penske Media Corp., which purchased Finke's burgeoning site in 2009.
"She was outspoken and honest." Nikki was never easy, but she will always be remembered as one of the most memorable people in my life."
Before moving to Los Angeles, Finke worked in some of the world's most competitive newsrooms, covering Moscow for the Associated Press and Washington, D.C. for Newsweek. She first cast a scathing eye on the inner workings of Hollywood in 2002, when she launched the L.A. Weekly column "Deadline Hollywood."
Following the purchase of a domain name for "14 bucks and change," the Long Island native rose to prominence with her astute exclusives, insider analysis, and annual "live-snarking" of the Academy Awards. Despite her enormous popularity, which landed her on Forbes' list of the "World's Most Powerful Women," the blogger was a notorious recluse, never meeting her sources in person and avoiding screenings.
When Penske's company, then known as Mail.com Media Corp., purchased Deadline for a reported low seven-figure sum in 2009, Finke agreed to remain the site's editor in chief. However, growing pains, including a shift away from her trademark acerbity as more writers were brought in, resulted in frequent clashes between management and the "most feared writer" in Hollywood, as the Los Angeles Times dubbed her in 2011.
Finke left the company in 2013 to launch NikkiFinke.com a year later. When that failed, she launched HollywoodDementia.com, a platform for short fiction about the show business.
She stayed with Deadline, however, and published her final post there in 2016, around the site's tenth anniversary. "I didn't set out to be a disruptor," she admitted, a little proudly. "Or an internet journalist who created something out of nothing that put the Hollywood trades on the back foot, and is now a website worth $100+ million under Penske Media ownership."
"Or," Finke continued, "a woman with brass balls, a fuck-you attitude, and ruthless hustle, who told hard truths about the moguls and broke scoops first."
According to MarketWatch, the mysterious columnist stated in 2006 that she wished to be buried alongside the silver screen greats at the Pierce Brothers cemetery in Westwood. "It could say on my tombstone, 'She told the truth about Hollywood,'" Finke told the outlet.