Butt-Ugly bust-up

It's cartoon chaos as ex-chief fires laser gun at Newscreen, suing the media rights group for unfair dismissal, writes Abigail Townsend

The former chief executive of Newscreen Media, home to cartoon characters the Butt-Ugly Martians, is suing for unfair and constructive dismissal.

Nicholas Underwood left the media rights group, which changed its name from Just to Newscreen last year, in August. Mr Underwood said he decided to resign after it emerged that other directors of the company had been in potential takeover talks with a rival media firm, Target Distribution.

Target owns the distribution rights to TV programmes such as Footballers' Wives and Popstars.

He said: "My grievance relates to meetings that took place without my knowledge, and without my finance director's knowledge, with Target." Mr Underwood added he did not find out about the talks until three months later, "at which point I had no choice but to consider my position".

The tribunal is set for 11 February next year but Mr Underwood said he was not prepared to return to the company. "I would love to still be working at the business. There's still working capital available from the shareholders but I would find it impossible to work with the existing board. I'm moving on." He added that the case was now a "matter of principle".

Brian Downs, a director of Newscreen, declined to discuss the matter other than to comment: "Nick and I are trying very hard to try to sort this matter out before it comes to tribunal."

Mr Underwood, a former marketing director at Ragdoll, which owns the Teletubbies, was the head of international marketing at Just from 1999 to October 2001.

He then left and set up his own consultancy business, but began working with the company again when it went into administration in 2002.

The group had run up heavy losses and was put into administration after failing to raise new finance.

However, a group of shareholders put together a rescue package by raising £3m and bought the company out of administration.

Mr Underwood was then appointed chief executive in August 2002.

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