Shares in Cablevision slumped almost 2% to $25.10 on Tuesday on news that the company has decided to settle a high-profile sexual-harassment lawsuit.
Madison Square Garden, one of the jewels of Cablevision’s portfolio, reportedly agreed to pay $11.5 million to Anucha Browne Sanders. The suit by the former marketing exec with the New York Knicks basketball team named Charles and James Dolan, the father and son who control Cablevision. She said she had been fired for saying that Knicks coach and GM Isiah Thomas was an abusive bully who blocked her advancement and made unwanted sexual overtures.
Rather than settle the case, the Dolans decided to fight it in court. The result was a contentious and at times lurid legal battle that garnered front-page headlines for three weeks and cast the company and the storied Knicks franchise in a decidedly negative light on the eve of the NBA season’s opening. After a jury sided with Browne Sanders, awarding her $11.6 million, NBA commissioner David Stern fumed that the case showed the Knicks are “not a model of intelligent management.”
Cablevision appealed the verdict, and the settlement came as and a hearing was approaching on compensatory damages. Both parties stood to lose with the appeal; Cablevision could have been hit with a higher tab, but Browne Sanders also could have had the original award whittled down substantially.
“The jury’s verdict in this case sent a powerful and enduring message that harassment and retaliation at Madison Square Garden will not be tolerated,” Browne Sanders said in a statement. “It has been a long journey, but I believe that justice has been done.”
In a statement, MSG said, “We don’t feel any less strongly than we did throughout the entire episode. The outcome was a travesty of justice, and we vehemently disagree with the jury’s decision, however, at the strong request of (the NBA commissioner) and in the interest of focusing on basketball, we can all agree that it is time for us to move on and put this issue behind us.”
Thomas added, “As I have said before, I am completely innocent. This decision doesn’t change that. However, this is the best course for Madison Square Garden, and I fully support it.”