1:46pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Keith Olbermann Files Lawsuit Against Current TV (Read the Complaint)
The war of words between Keith Olbermann and Current TV is now officially a legal battle, with the fired anchor filing a lawsuit Thursday accusing his former employer of breach of contract, sabotage and disparagement, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
According to the 43-page, eight-count complaint, filed Thursday afternoon in Los Angeles Superior Court by attorney Patty Glaser of L.A.'s Glaser Weil firm, Olbermann was terminated without cause a year into his five-year, $50 million contract with the left-leaning TV network. He claims he is owed between $50 million and $70 million in damages based on breach of contract and other causes of action.
"This action is necessary as Current has repeatedly and willfully breached its written agreement with Olbermann, often continuing to do so after receiving specific notices to cure such breaches," states the complaint, filed on behalf of Olbermann and his company Olbermann Broadcasting Empire Inc.
In a statement provided to THR, Current responds:
"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."
The suit has been anticipated since Current sent Olbermann's representatives a letter March 29 terminating his services. The network co-founded by Gore and Hyatt claims Olbermann was often absent from the job, missing 19 of 41 workdays in January and February. The anchor also allegedly refused to promote other Current shows. Olbermann claims he was provided substandard facilities (the lights allegedly went out in the studio on a couple of occasions) and was forced out even though he's under contract.
Olbermann uses the legal filing to take some shots at Current co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, as well as Current TV president David Bohrman, who is referred to as a "an individual without relevant experience."
"Current's dysfunction permeated all levels of the organization," the suit claims. After being on the air for nearly eight months -- long after all 'growing pains' should have ceased -- Current still couldn't manage to, literally, keep the lights on. Since the time Hyatt crowned himself CEO, the [Countdown] program was plagued by further logistical nightmares, technical failures and media disasters."
Olbermann also cites the following breaches of his contract:
1. Broadcasting advertisements containing Olbermann's likeness without his consent.
2. Using guest hosts for Olbermann's program without obtaining Olbermann's approval
3. Refusing to allow Olbermann to exercise his contractually granted editorial control over special election coverage.
4. Disclosing the confidential terms of his contract.
5. Linking Olbermann's name and goodwill with corporate endorsements without his consent.
6. Ignoring Olbermann's consultation rights.
7. Disparaging Olbermann publically.
8. Refusing to invest resources and hire appropriate personnel in order to professionally and competently produce the program.
Current has paid Olbermann the first installment of his $10 million-a-year deal. The fight over the rest now will move to the courtroom.
"Well, up to last Thursday I got my money," Olbermann said Tuesday on CBS' Late Show With David Letterman. "The nice judge will decide whether or not I get more of my money."
The suit alleges causes of action for breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and six requests for declaratory relief over claims relating to his contract.