Distressed diva: Reality TV for me but not for you

March 3, 2011, 9:07 PM UTC

Lynn Tilton

Yesterday we mentioned that Lynn Tilton, CEO of turnaround firm Patriarch Partners, has agreed to be followed around for a reality show on The Sundance Channel. It’s still in development, so we don’t yet know if it will honor Tilton’s vision of a program that shows how to get Americans back to work (as opposed to one that mostly highlights her outsized personality).

But here’s what we do know: Tilton’s decision to do a reality TV show is tinged with irony and, arguably, hypocrisy.

Four years ago, Tilton canned Patriarch president Jason Colodne – on the very morning she learned that he had filmed segments for The Real Housewives of New York (he was dating “housewife” Bethany Frankel). Litigation ensued, in which Colodne sought $55 million for breach of contract.

I spent some time reading through the court records, and there is a lot of he-said/she-said (shocking, I know). But here’s one thing that is not in dispute: Colodne’s participation on Real Housewives was a factor in his termination. Tilton does claim repeatedly that she would have fired him anyway for poor performance, but that Real Housewives was “the final straw” that “accelerated the process.”

Now it’s true that Colodne was an employee and Tilton is the owner. And it’s also true that Colodne may – I stress “may” – have violated a Patriarch media policy (depending on how one defines “media”). But isn’t it a bit odd to argue that participating in reality TV is at least a partial cause for dismissal, and then turn around and film your own show (which, one would assume, would be a much larger time commitment)? Is Patriarch really going to get much relevant marketing mileage out of a Sundance Channel show?

I called Patriarch for comment, but was told Tilton would not discuss matters related to her show. I tried explaining my question was more about Patriarch than about The Diva of Distressed, but still got shot down. To be honest, I’m not sure if my specific question was ever conveyed to her…