Complaint seeks payout of up to $70 mil and unspecified damages
A week after he was fired from Current TV, Keith Olbermann has filed a breach of contract lawsuit accusing the cabler of violating aspects of his contract ranging from the use of his likeness in advertisements to his ability to exert editorial control over its news programming.The 43-page suit, filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks a payout of $50 million-$70 million, which the suit cites as the value of Olbermann’s five-year contract and equity interest in Current. It also asks for unspecified damages and a jury trial. Current returned fire on Friday with a countersuit detailing alleged bad behavior by Olbermann and seeking a judge’s ruling that he is not entitled to any more money from the network. Current’s filing accuses Olbermann of breaching his contract by disclosing terms fo the lucrative deal, refusing to cooperate in promoting the show and taking days off without permission. Olbermann’s colorfully written complaint paints a picture of Current as an “unprofessional cable-access”-style operation where management refused to address the myriad basic technical problems plaguing the production of his nightly “Countdown” program. It describes Current founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt and other execs as “dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives.” The suit takes special aim at CEO Hyatt, who is accused of “blackmail” by threatening to cancel “Countdown” and forcing Olbermann to keep his manager and agents out of “all interactions related to Current.” The suit claims Olbermann agreed to Hyatt’s demands to save the show and the jobs of staffers who followed him from MSNBC to Current in March 2011. The suit also accusing Hyatt of “withholding necessary production resources” from “Countdown” after Olbermann resisted his overtures to develop a friendship beyond their professional relationship. The suit addresses the circumstances surrounding Olbermann’s absence earlier this year from anchoring Current’s coverage of key GOP primaries, including Super Tuesday, by claiming that Current prexy David Bohrman had refused to allow Olbermann full editorial control of the broadcasts, despite his role as chief news officer. Current issued a pointed response to Olbermann’s filing, stating that the anchor was fired for “material breaches of his contract, including the failure to show up at work, sabotaging the network and attacking Current and its executives.” The statement concluded: “By filing his false and malicious lawsuit, (Olbermann) 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.” Current’s lawsuit depicts Olbermann as petulant and temperamental, to the point of rejecting seven limousine companies that the net hired to transport him to the “Countdown” studio.