7:56pm PT by Matthew Belloni
Olbermann Seeks Summary Judgment in Current TV Case As Key Mediation Nears
Keith Olbermann has filed new court documents attempting to prove his $50 million case against former employer Current TV as the high-profile dispute heads to an important mediation.
In two extensive summary judgment motions filed March 7 in Los Angeles Superior Court and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter (read them in full), Olbermann fleshes out arguments first made in his April 5, 2012 lawsuit against the liberal-leaning broadcaster. The documents were filed under seal and are heavily redacted, meaning the meat of the evidence and arguments is confidential, at least temporarily so. But the non-redacted portions reveal Olbermann has attempted to substantiate claims that he was improperly terminated without cause from his Countdown show a year into his five-year, $50 million contract. He argues that Current and its co-founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt also trashed him in the press and violated his highly-negoitated deal in specific ways.
From the new court documents:
"Current breached ¶ 16(a)(i) of the Agreement by making disparaging and derogatory statements in the public and to its staff about Mr. Olbermann and by disclosing confidential terms of the parties' Agreement to the press. Current breached ¶ 2(a)(ii) of the Agreement by using Mr. Olbermann's likeness in connection with advertising the Program properties, all without his prior approval. Current breached ¶ 5(c) by using Olbermann's name, without his approval, in connection with a commercial for AT&T. Current breached ¶¶ 2(a) and 2(b)(ii) by denying Mr. Olbermann editorial control over "Program Specials" broadcast on Current, and breached ¶ 2(a)(i) by refusing Mr. Olbermann editorial control of the website when it denied his request to stream segments of Countdown over the Website. Current breached ¶ 13(d) of the Agreement by improperly terminating Mr. Olbermann's employment."
Current has called the allegations in the lawsuit "false and malicious," arguing that Olbermann breached his contract by, among other things, failing to show up for work on several occasions and revealing his salary to The Hollywood Reporter and the Wall Street Journal. The network, which Gore and Hyatt sold for $500 million in January to the owners of the Al Jazeera news organization, filed its own blistering cross-complaint attacking its former marquee personality. "We hope Mr. Olbermann understands that when it comes to the legal process, he is actually required to show up," the network said in a pithy statement when the litigation first erupted.
With the summary judgment motions, Olbermann is asking a court to rule in his favor on the substantive issues in both his lawsuit and the Current cross-complaint before the case heads to trial in May. As part of the summary judgment process, Olbermann is required to provide evidence to back up his arguments. That alleged proof is included in the court file but has been deemed temporarily confidential, as has any discussion of that evidence in the accompanying motion papers. But the thrust of the arguments can be determined from section headings like "Current Did Not Inform Olbermann That Vacation Days Taken on December 23, 2011 - January 2, 2012, and January 9-13, 2012 Were Unsatisfactory to Current" and "Olbermann DId Not Disclose The Agreement's Confidential Terms." Olbermann's lawyers declined to comment.
A hearing on the motion has been set for April 24, and Current must ask the court to keep the substance of the motion confidential in the next 10 days. Otherwise, the documents and the full motions will become public.
In the meantime, Olbermann and Current are set to square off in a court-ordered mediation on March 12. Sources say Olbermann, who on Friday was enjoying spring training baseball in Arizona, will fly to Los Angeles to attend the settlement discussions, and Hyatt and possibly Gore also are expected to attend. It's unclear whether representatives of Al Jazeera will participate. Both sides have an incentive to settle the case during the mediation to avoid an expensive and possibly embarrassing public trial in which personal emails and other communications likely will be made public. Current's new owners likely want to put the Olbermann mess behind them and Olbermann is said to want to pursue another job, at ESPN or elsewhere. But given the animosity in the case so far, a quick settlement doesn't seem easy.
Oddly, the Olbermann motion was filed on the same day Current and Gore were sued by a man who claims he put together the plan for the network's $500 million sale to the Qatari royal family but was cut out of the deal. The two cases are not related.
Olbermann is represented by Patty Glaser, Jill Basinger and Garland Kelley at LA's Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard Avchen & Shapiro. Current is repped by a team at LA's Paul Weiss firm.