Keith Olbermann Sues Current TV a Week after Firing
By Michael Martinez, CNN
LOS ANGELES (CNN) — Television personality Keith Olbermann sued his former employer, Current TV, on Thursday, claiming breach of contract, unfair dealing and disparagement in an action filed in California Superior Court.
Current TV, led by co-founders former Vice President Al Gore and businessman Joel Hyatt, ousted Olbermann last week.
Olbermann says he is owed $50 million to $70 million in cash and equity compensation, according to the suit, which seeks a jury trial. The lawsuit also seeks a judgment for other unspecified monetary damages, with interest.
“This action is necessary as Current has repeatedly and willfully breached its written agreement with Olbermann,” the lawsuit said, “often continuing to do so after receiving specific notices to cure such breaches.
“In its most recent breach, Current unilaterally, and without cause, terminated its agreement with Olbermann. Current’s sudden and public termination of Olbermann was the latest in a series of increasingly erratic and unprofessional actions undertaken by Current’s senior management,” the lawsuit said.
Olbermann’s suit called Gore, Hyatt and Current management “no more than dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives.”
In a statement Thursday, Current said it fired Olbermann for “serial, material breaches of his contract, including the failure to show up at work, sabotaging the network and attacking Current and its executives.”
It continued, “It is well established that over his professional career Mr. Olbermann has specialized in pounding the table.
“However, Mr. Olbermann, by filing his false and malicious lawsuit, has now put this matter into a legal process where there will be an objective review of the facts.
“We hope Mr. Olbermann understands that when it comes to the legal process, he is actually required to show up.”
Gore and Hyatt courted Olbermann to leave his previous employer, MSNBC, with promises of “an unprecedented level of control and resources to build a new progressive network,” the lawsuit said.
Olbermann was given “full editorial control over ‘Countdown with Keith Olbermann'” and the title of chief news officer, the suit said.
But the relationship soured shortly after Olbermann joined the network, according to the suit.
“Admitting that he and Gore ‘had expertise lacking in order to strategically execute the vision (they had) committed to’ Hyatt created an environment in which major business errors and technical failures became commonplace and acceptable,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Hyatt also attempted to isolate Olbermann from his professional representatives in an awkward attempt to form a close personal friendship with his new star,” the suit says.
When Olbermann didn’t reciprocate, Hyatt withheld production resources and disparaged Olbermann in the press, the lawsuit says.