Under Wild Skies v. NRA

Under Wild Skies Initial Complaint

September 11, 2019

Filing Summary

This is the initial complaint of a Virginia-based company, Under Wild Skies (“UWS”), against the NRA for various breaches of the parties’ contract. The NRA and UWS had long partnered together to produce (and place ads on) the television show “Under Wild Skies”. However, in-mid 2019, and at the same time the NRA begin its litigation campaign against Ackerman McQueen, the Complaint alleges the NRA started skipping payments to UWS. The Complaint alleges four causes of action: (1) Breach of Advertising Contract, (2) Breach of Sponsorship Contract, (3) Anticipatory Repudiation of Advertising Agreement, and (4) Anticipatory Repudiation of Sponsorship Agreement.

Key Points

  • “Under Wild Skies” is a television program hosted by Anthony Makris, and has “been televised continuously for the past 26 years.”  Makris is an executive with Ackerman McQueen and a principal of the Mercury Group (a subsidiary of Ackerman McQueen). (Pg. 2.)
  • The Complaint alleges that UWS and the NRA entered in an Advertising Agreement whereby the NRA would pay UWS for two minutes of advertising per episode run.  Additionally, UWS and the NRA entered into a Sponsorship Agreement in which the NRA would receive billboards, “one in show feature”, and “one in show bumper per episode.” (Pg. 2.)
  • Of note, the Complaint alleges that UWS has “served to promote NRA principles and leadership, and has assisted, if not facilitated, Wayne LaPierre’s introduction and inclusion in the world of hunting and hunters. Prominent NRA figures such as Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, Kayne Robinson, Sandy Froman, Rob Schmeits, Pete Brownell, and Susan LaPierre have all appeared on the show in multiple hunts, episodes and seasons promoting the NRA to the viewing public.”  (Pg. 4.)
  • This group of “prominent NRA figures has participated in televised hunts in the United States, Botswana, Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Argentina, and Uruguay, amongst others.” (Pg. 4.)
  • UWS claims to have “paid for the safaris and hunts of these NRA officers, spouses, and board members, namely Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox, Kayne Robinson, Sandy Froman, Ron Schmeits, Pete Brownell, and Susan LaPierre.” (Pg. 6)
  • UWS alleges that the NRA paid every payment on time between 2016 – 2019, but the initiation of litigation with Ackerman McQueen changed the relationship between the parties and that the NRA has since missed several significant contractual payments. (Pg. 7-8.)
  • The Complaint alleges that UWS has contractual obligations with Winnercomm (a subsidiary of Outdoor Channel Holdings) to produce the Under Wild Skies television show and that the NRA’s breach of its obligations to UWS caused UWS to breach its obligations with Winnercomm. (Pg. 5.)
  • The Complaint seeks $17.1 million in damages from the NRA. (Pg. 12)
  • Exhibit A (Pg. 14) is the Advertising Agreement; Exhibit B is the Sponsorship Agreement (Pg. 16); Exhibit C is a letter from the NRA to UWS seeking information about the show (Pg. 18).