The death of MDi Media President James Ellis late last year appears to have led to a falling out between his widow and four of the advertising/PR firms principal members, who have left the company and struck out on their own.

The 15-year old company started by Ellis and Don Davis has become one of the city’s largest and best-known advertising firms, but Davis, Meridith South, David Barnette and Ira Patrick all walked out Sept. 3 after a dispute with Ellis’ widow, Bridgett Murray-Ellis, about the direction of the company.

Davis, who is a minority owner of MDi, South, who served as president of its Media Division, Barnette, creative director and Patrick, associate creative director, say they have decided to start their own firm — Davis, South, Barnette & Patrick.

“It will be a full-service advertising, marketing and public relations firm,” South said.

The four have worked together for the past 10 years.

“It’s not like it’s a startup,” she added.

Troubles at MDi stemmed from Ellis’ death in late December when he was hit by a car on Government Street while crossing the road. Davis said there had been no legal preparations for Ellis’ death, making it difficult to come to a financial agreement between Murray-Ellis and Davis. When she asserted her ownership, the four decided to leave, Davis explained.

For her part, Murray-Ellis said he was her intention to keep Davis and the others running the business, but she had become frustrated in trying to get information about its operations. She said the company was not in a position financially to buy her out.

“Basically I was not getting information from the company. When I asked for information it was not forthcoming,” she said.

“The four principal people who ran the business since James died walked out. I’m trying my best to keep things going,” she added.

Murray-Ellis said she is currently trying to find replacements for the four.

“Our intention is to find the right people who can continue the creative and client service legacy MDi has had,” Murray-Ellis said. “I have nothing but the best to say about Don, David, Meridith and Ira. Unfortunately they made their own decision.”

Davis says they’ve not yet settled on a physical location, but can be found on the web at dsbandp.com.

WPMI adding news to schedule

We have more details on a story we first reported in August about changes and new efforts being made at WPMI-TV.

The local NBC affiliate has made a move to expand its news coverage, adding two hours each day. On Sept. 9, “Local 15 Today” began airing at 4:30 a.m. and welcomed new co-anchor Kelly Jones from KCTV5 in Kansas City.

“Local 15 Today” has also added Stephen Quinn as a live morning news reporter, something the station says is unique to the area. In addition, WPMI has added Jordan Early as a social media reporter.

The noon news broadcast has also been expanded to an hour with Jones and morning co-anchor Pat Greenwood splitting time on the desk.

Beginning Sept. 23, sister station WJTC UTV 44 will begin carrying news broadcasts at 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Anchor Greg Peterson will handle the 6:30 broadcast, while he and his evening co-anchor Kym Thurman will handle the 9 p.m. show.

Move over Tulsa!

The latest television market estimates are out from Nielsen, the company that keeps up with ratings and market sizes and such, and Mobile is on the rise.

The Mobile-Pensacola official market size moved up one spot in the 2013-2014 rankings, up from 60 to 59, bumping Tulsa, Ok. into the 60th spot.

While this may not seem like a tremendous climb upon first glance, it is worth noting that among Alabama’s top four markets, Mobile-Pensacola is the only one that gained position. Birmingham fell two spots, from 42 to 44. Montgomery-Selma also dropped two spots from 118 to 120 and Huntsville-Decatur held firm at 79.

Mobile gained about 15,000 TV households in the estimate. We’re coming for you next Albany-Schenectady-Troy!

Lipford his silver anniversary

Homegrown home improvement guru Danny Lipford is celebrating 25 years on the airwaves this month.

Lipford managed to transform a local cable home improvement show called “Remodeling Today” into a nationally known product. His syndicated show “Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford” started its 16th season this month, is on more than 200 stations and has even been nominated for an Emmy Award.

On top of that, Lipford’s radio show “Today’s Homeowner,” airs on more than 100 stations.

Hard to believe it all started on BLAB TV, the precursor to Port City 6.

“It’s always fun going up against a little program like ‘Monday Night Football,’” Lipford recalled recently. “Of course, my friends had a great time calling in and trying to make me turn red while I was on the air. I really had a lot of fun and that show served as the platform to launch my show and help homeowners across the country.”

“Today’s Homeowner” reaches more than 1.2 million viewers each week and is the number one syndicated home improvement TV show. Not bad for a boy from Mobile.

Coastal Alabama drifts away

The Alabama Media Group (aka Press-Register or al.com) is shuttering its glossy lifestyle magazine, Coastal Alabama, insiders tell us. The magazine began publishing last July in the final days of Ricky Mathews’ reign as publisher.

The publication improved editorially under the direction of veteran magazine editor Michelle Roberts, but appears to have been undone by poor advertising sales.

It was the successor to the P-R’s other lifestyle attempt ‘Zalea.
Insiders tell us editor Michelle Roberts will stay with al.com.

Re-launch?

We’re also hearing from insiders that al.com will “re-launch” itself on Nov. 4. No one is certain what that means at this point, but it has been just about a year since Alabama Media Group came into being and the Newhouse newspapers in Mobile, Huntsville and Birmingham all reduced printing to just three days a week.

We’ll let you know if we find out more.