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The Parent Company of Cumulus and The Ticket Is Suing Ex-Hosts Jake Kemp and Dan McDowell

A little more than two weeks after Dan McDowell and Jake Kemp resigned from their show on The Ticket, a lawsuit seeks to shut down their new podcast.
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Jake Kemp, left, and Dan McDowell, right, left The Ticket after contract negotiations fell through. Their former employer is now suing them for breach of contract. The Dumb Zone/Youtube

Just a few weeks after contract negotiations broke down between Cumulus Media and The Ticket’s Dan McDowell and Jake Kemp, Susquehanna Radio, the company’s parent, has filed a lawsuit alleging the two breached their contracts.

Kemp and McDowell co-hosted The Hang Zone, the station’s noon-to-3 show, since 2020. McDowell had been with the station since 1999, while Kemp joined the station in 2009. The pair resigned in mid July and have since launched a Patreon-based podcast called The Dumb Zone. (Necessary disclosure: Kemp also is an occasional freelance writer for D Magazine’s StrongSide sports section.)

The suit, which was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas, claims the two are in violation of noncompete agreements they signed in 2018, the start date of their last contract with The Ticket. 

In a video posted two weeks ago, the two said that they had been operating without a contract for 19 days.

“A lot of headlines are like ‘Dan and Jake resigned from The Ticket,’ which is technically true-not true—the only thing is our contracts were expired,” McDowell said. When neither side could come to an agreement on new contracts, they were asked to resign.

“So then we did,” McDowell continued. “Personally, I am not pissed. I’m not mad at Cumulus. It’s fine. That’s their thing, their evaluation of the situation and our evaluation of the situation is that we felt like it was fine to move on, they felt like it was fine to move on from us and here we are.”

McDowell and Kemp also stated at the time that they believed they would be able to move forward with the podcast. 

“In the end, I think it’s all fine for everybody,” McDowell said. “The P1s will still get all their great entertainment—maybe in different places at different times. Cumulus Nation will survive and kill it because The Ticket’s great.”

Around the same time, Cumulus Media Dallas vice president Dan Bennett announced in an internal memo obtained by RadioInsight that the two resigned effective July 17.

“We began negotiations with both in December and remained productive and positive until late last week,” Bennett said in the memo. “At that time, talks broke down over competing digital media interests Dan and Jake wished to pursue outside of a Cumulus Media partnership. Obviously, we are all disappointed that we could not reach an agreement but we are all appreciative of the great contribution both employees made to our Cluster of stations.”

At some point that equanimity apparently broke down. Susquehanna served the two with a cease-and-desist after the launch of their new The Dumb Zone podcast, which offers listeners the ability to pay $6.90 each month for ad-free content.

In the suit, Susquehanna alleges that McDowell and Kemp created The Dumb Zone while they were still employed by The Ticket. The suit also accuses the two of taking over social media accounts previously belonging to The Hang Zone and repurposing them for their new endeavor. 

The company says that the new show focuses on “identical” subject matter and attracts the same audience—“a male audience and on Dallas-area sports”—as their former show, and alleges that the two flaunted noncompete and anti-disparagement language in their contracts during their shows. 

“In addition to following the same programming structure, Defendants talked at length on The Dumb Zone about their contract negotiations with The Ticket, mocked Susquehanna’s cease- and-desist (offering instead to ‘cease-and-cist’), threatened to release conversations Defendants illicitly recorded with Susquehanna executives containing confidential information, criticized Susquehanna’s hiring and programming decisions, and actively disparaged Susquehanna employees,” the suit says.

Susquehanna is asking Judge Karen Gren Scholer for a temporary injunction and restraining order against Kemp and McDowell and their new show.

On the duo’s latest podcast recorded Sunday, they acknowledge the suit, with McDowell saying, “apparently they do want us to stop this.”

“We’re working with certain advisors and we’ve been advised that we are doing nothing wrong, so don’t stop … for now,” he said. “The wheels of justice move slowly, but I’ve also been informed by said advisors that it could move a little quicker here for this or that reason.”

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.
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