DAVIS OFF A&E, ON TLC - "Flip This House" creator sues network
Richard C. Davis, a Charleston real estate entrepreneur turned cable TV personality, is flipped off.
The star and creator of A&E's "Flip This House" was replaced for the second season, which began airing Sunday evening. The good news, Davis said Tuesday, is that the show will return on a rival cable station this winter. All he has to do is think of a new name.
"That's the easy part," he said.
In the meantime, Davis and his James Island-based real estate company, Trademark Properties, are suing A&E Television Networks for breach of contract and fraud.
The lawsuit, filed July 20 in Charleston County Court of Common Pleas, alleges the cable network took Davis' idea for the show and has not paid him and Trademark their share of the revenue.
He said in court documents that an agreement with A&E stated the show must "prominently feature" Davis and Trademark, and that no episode be produced that does not include them in a lead role.
However, when the show returned for its new season Sunday, Davis and Trademark were gone. In their place were the Montelongo family, developers from San Antonio. This season also will feature Atlanta-based husband-and-wife team Sam and Shani Leccima.
According to his complaint, Davis created the show in April 2004 and owns the rights equally with A&E. Despite repeated requests, the lawsuit alleges, the network did not provide a written agreement.
The suit names A&E Television Networks, producers Departure Films and 20 other unidentified defendants. Davis is seeking damages in excess of $1 million. Dan Silberman, senior director of publicity for A&E in New York, declined to comment, saying the company does not comment on pending lawsuits.
"Flip This House" stemmed in large part from the local real estate boom. The first season centered on Davis and his team as they snapped up properties at bargain-basement prices, usually in the Charleston area, and fixed them up for a quick resale. It made them cable celebrities.
Davis said he has been inundated this week with e-mails and phone calls from viewers wanting to know why he's no longer on the program. On Tuesday morning, he said, 20 fans from Atlanta turned up in Trademark's lobby to make sure the cast members they'd seen on TV are real.
"I could not have dreamt up how supportive people have been about this," Davis said. "If America really liked the other show better, I'd lick my wounds and move on."
Sunday's season premiere, minus the Charleston connection, sparked derision from Trademark fans who protested on A&E's online chat rooms, demanding the return of Davis and the rest of the cast.
On Tuesday morning, A&E's Web site still featured Trademark as appearing on the show. By Tuesday afternoon the site was unavailable.
No matter, Davis said, because the show will return in December, this time on The Learning Channel.
The format will be the same: Davis hounding his staff to flip the house on time and on budget. Occasionally they fall out, but they always make up. Filming began in the spring and about eight shows are in the can, Davis said.