Byron Allen's Media Group Files $10 Billion Lawsuit Against McDonald's For Racial Discrimination
Byron Allen's Allen Media Group divisions Entertainment Studios and Weather Group, filed a lawsuit against McDonald's seeking $10 billion in damages for racial discrimination in contracting in violation of federal and state law. According to the lawsuit, McDonald's intentionally discriminated against Entertainment Studios and Weather Group through a pattern of racial stereotyping and refusals to contract.
Entertainment Studios, a media company owned by African American entrepreneur Byron Allen, owns and operates 12 high-definition television networks that are carried by over 60 multi-channel video programming distributors, including Comcast, AT&T U-Verse, Charter/Spectrum, DISH Network, DirecTV, AT&T Now, and Verizon FIOS. These networks feature lifestyle content with general audience appeal and are widely distributed to over 180 million cumulative subscribers in all 50 states. In 2018, Allen acquired Weather Group, which owns and operates the award-winning cable news network The Weather Channel and the streaming service Local Now.
McDonald's is the world's leading global food service retailer with over 39,000 locations that generate over $100 billion in annual revenue. African Americans represent approximately 40% of McDonald's U.S. sales, with McDonald's taking billions of dollars each year from African American consumers. But of its approximately $1.6 billion annual television advertising budget, McDonald's spends less than approximately $5 million each year on African American-owned media, and it has refused to advertise on Entertainment Studios networks or The Weather Channel since Allen acquired the network in 2018. Per the lawsuit, the McDonald's President and CEO Chris Kempczinski makes approximately $11 million per year, which is more than double what McDonald's spends per year on ALL of Black-owned media combined.
The lawsuit alleges that McDonald's refusal to contract is the result of racial stereotyping through McDonald's tiered advertising structure that differentiates on the basis of race. The primary advertising tier for McDonald's is referred to as "general market" and it constitutes the vast majority of McDonald's advertising budget. McDonald's, however, created a separate "African American" tier with a much smaller budget and less-favorable pricing and other terms. McDonald's contracts with a separate ad agency (Burrell Communications) for this African American tier, thereby creating separate and unequal tracks for Black-owned media companies to earn advertising revenue. McDonald's has created a discriminatory environment that is separate but not equal.
According to the lawsuit, McDonald's relegated Entertainment Studios to the less-favorable African American tier even though the companies own and operate television networks that have general market appeal and do not specifically target African American audiences. McDonald's does so because the companies are owned by Allen, an African American. Through this stereotyping, McDonald's prevented Entertainment Studios and Weather Group from accessing McDonald's general market advertising budget and deprived the companies of advertising revenue that otherwise would have been paid if McDonald's treated the companies the same as similarly situated, white-owned companies.
"This is about economic inclusion of African American-owned businesses in the U.S. economy," said Byron Allen, Founder/Chairman/CEO of Allen Media Group. "McDonald's takes billions from African American consumers and gives almost nothing back. The biggest trade deficit in America is the trade deficit between White corporate America and Black America, and McDonald's is guilty of perpetuating this disparity. The economic exclusion must stop immediately."
"As alleged in the complaint, McDonald's has engaged in pernicious racial discrimination in violation of federal and state law," said counsel for Mr. Allen and his companies, Skip Miller, partner in Miller Barondess, LLP. "I am confident the jury will recognize the injustice that has occurred here and award significant damages. We are looking forward to our day in court."