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Runaway Bride Gets Judith Regan Deal

Wide World of Wilbanks- JUDITH Regan did everything possible to keep her $500,000 deal with “Runaway Bride” Jennifer Wilbanks a secret. But PAGE SIX has obtained a copy of the “deal memo” that led to Wilbanks’ interview with NBC’s Katie Couric, plus an e-mail from Regan’s office swearing Wilbanks and her family to secrecy.

“I must stress the importance of keeping this deal and all its details absolutely confidential,” Regan’s assistant, Doug Grad, e-mailed the Wilbanks family this month.

“Nobody can know that this deal has gone through – and those who do know . . . must keep it secret. Any leaks can lead to the cancellation of the first interview, and the cancellation of the deal. I cannot stress this strongly enough.”

Secrecy was crucial because NBC News, like other network news divisions, has a policy against paying for interviews. NBC claims it hasn’t paid a dime to Wilbanks or to Regan, who runs ReganMedia. But speculation has been rampant that Couric landed the Wilbanks interview as part of a $500,000 deal that included a TV movie.

A rep for NBC told us yesterday: “We have not, never have and never will pay for an interview. Whatever deal Judith Regan has with the Wilbanks’ is not with us.”

The carefully worded “deal memo” never mentions NBC. “Maybe Judith thinks she can garner interest in Jennifer Wilbanks so she can sell her rights to a TV movie,” the NBC rep said. “She owns Jennifer now. Call Judith.” Regan didn’t return calls.

The agreement for the “television rights of the story of Jennifer Wilbanks and John Mason” says the couple will be paid “$500,000 . . . after the completion of the first interview ” with Wilbanks and fiancé Mason.

The memo says the “interview must be completed within the next 10 days (therefore, no later than Monday, June 13, 2005) and TV Rights would also include Exclusive Dramatic Rights (TV/Movie rights.)”

ReganMedia issued a press release yesterday announcing it had acquired all rights to the life stories of Wilbanks and Mason. “ReganMedia is currently developing a scripted television project based on the Wilbanks-Mason story. The project is not with NBC, nor has any compensation been received from NBC,” the release stated.

Although NBC is keeping itself at arm’s length from the deal, the Wilbanks’ seemed to think the money was coming from NBC. An insider said: “The Wilbanks family called up ABC and said, ‘Katie Couric is offering us $500,000; what

Associated Press — Runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks made a deal with a company that is pitching a movie about her life to networks — annoying officials who spent thousands of dollars searching for her.

ReganMedia, a New York multimedia company, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for a story in Thursday’s papers it has acquired all media rights to the “life stories” of Wilbanks and her fiance, John Mason.

The company did not say whether any money had changed hands.

“I am looking forward to developing the scripted project with Wilbanks and Mason,” company president Judith Regan said in a statement. “Theirs is an unexpected and compelling story of love and forgiveness that has certainly taught me a thing or two.”

The 32-year-old bride-to-be disappeared from her Duluth home on April 26, four days before her wedding in a high-profile ceremony with 600 guests and 28 attendants.

She took a bus to Las Vegas and then Albuquerque, N.M., and claimed she was abducted and sexually assaulted, but later recanted, saying she fled because of unspecified personal issues.

Wilbanks pleaded no contest earlier this month to making a false statement and was sentenced to two years of probation and 120 hours of community service. She also was ordered to continue mental health treatment and pay the sheriff’s office $2,550.

Duluth spent nearly $43,000 to search for her. Wilbanks has repaid $13,249.

“It’s disturbing to me on a personal basis that she’s willing to profit from this, but there’s nothing I can do about it legally,” said Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter, who pursued charges against Wilbanks.



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