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Friday, April 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Olbermann Demands $50 Million|From ‘Dilettantes’ at Current TV

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Calling Al Gore and other Current TV executives "no more than dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives," Keith Olbermann claims in Superior Court that Current TV breached his contract by firing him, and owes him $50 million.

Olbermann Broadcasting Empire [sic] and Keith Olbermann sued Current TV and John Does 1-50 on eight counts, stemming from his widely publicized firing from the evening news show "Countdown."

Olbermann was immediately replaced by former New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who is not a party to the case.

Represented by Patricia Glaser with Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro, Olbermann's 48-page complaint begins in high dudgeon: "After being enticed to leave MSNBC and come to Current with promises of editorial control, freedom from corporate influence, and the professional support to produce a high-caliber political commentary show of the type his viewers have come to expect, Keith Olbermann was disheartened to discover Al Gore, [Current TV co-founder] Joel Hyatt, and the management of Current are no more than dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives. This action is necessary as Current has repeatedly and willfully breached its written agreement with Olbermann (the 'agreement'), 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."

Among Olbermann's charges are the Current violated the agreement by leaking his pay to entertainment industry publications.

Olbermann signed a five-year, $50 million deal with Current in early 2011, and his "Countdown" show began in June.

Olbermann savages Current's executives in his complaint, but largely spares former Vice President Gore of the wrath of the Olbermann Empire.

He demands damages for breach of contract and breach of faith, and declaratory relief on claims of uncured defaults for failure to promote, disparagement, unauthorized selection of guest hosts, refusal to meaningfully consult, and disclosure of confidential economic terms.

Friday, one day after Olbermann filed suit, Current TV entered a cross-complaint for breach of contract. The 16-page filing seeks a ruling that Current has no obligations, including issues of compensation, to Olbermann.

"On April 3, Keith Olbermann told David Letterman and a national television audience that his termination by Current TV was 'my fault' and that 'I screwed up,'" the countersuit states. "Two days later, he apparently forgot what he said, filing a frivolous complaint riddled with falsehoods and distortions in which he refused to take any responsibility whatsoever for that termination."

Current is represented by Paul, White, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in Manhattan, and Kendall Brill & Klieger in Los Angeles.

An attorney who handles employment cases said Olbermann and Current appear to be gearing up for a long and ugly fight.

"Neither Current TV and Keith Olbermann needed to say all the horrible things they have said about each other in their legal papers," attorney Dan Woods, a partner with White & Case's Los Angeles office, said in a statement. "What is the point of smearing one another? This paints both of them in a very bad light, and it puts them on a path of mutually-assured self destruction."

"The judge will probably tell both sides to tone down the rhetoric," Woods added. "The judge will ask both parties to try and mediate or settle the dispute without a trial, but it appears that would be very difficult to do since Olbermann and Current TV are so angry with each other. I anticipate that both sides are digging in for a long fight."

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