Bloomberg News

Olbermann Trades Suits, Insults With Current TV

April 06, 2012

Keith Olbermann , who was fired last month as lead anchor of former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV LLC progressive political channel. Photographer: Donna Ward/Getty Images

Keith Olbermann , who was fired last month as lead anchor of former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV LLC progressive political channel. Photographer: Donna Ward/Getty Images

April 6 (Bloomberg) --Keith Olbermann and former Vice President Al Gore’s Current TV LLC filed lawsuits against each other after the anchor’s firing last month from the progressive political cable channel.

Olbermann, 53, filed a breach-of-contract complaint yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court, saying he “was disheartened to discover Al Gore, Joel Hyatt, and the management of Current are no more than dilettantes portraying entertainment industry executives.” Current TV filed a countersuit today.

Olbermann clashed with producers at the channel this year, refusing to anchor election segments and taking himself off the air. Current TV said on March 30 that it had dismissed Olbermann because he no longer represented the channel’s values.

“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,” according to the former anchorman’s complaint, which seeks unspecified damages.

In its breach-of-contract complaint, filed in the same court, Current TV said that on April 3 the former anchor appeared on the “Late Show with David Letterman” where he said that his termination was “my fault” and that “I screwed up.” Such admissions appear nowhere in his lawsuit, Current TV said.

‘Falsehoods and Distortions’

Olbermann’s complaint is “riddled with falsehoods and distortions in which he refused to take any responsibility whatsoever for that termination,” according to Current TV.

“Current seeks a determination that it is no longer obligated to pay a dime to Mr. Olbermann who, having already been paid handsomely for showing up sporadically and utterly failing to keep his end of the bargain, now seeks to be paid tens of millions more for not working at all,” the channel said in its complaint.

The channel replaced Olbermann with former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer on a new show, “Viewpoint with Eliot Spitzer.”

Current TV has 68.5 million subscribers and estimated net operating revenue of $127 million for 2012, according to researcher SNL Kagan.

Suspension Over Donations

Olbermann, who left MSNBC in 2011 after serving a two-day suspension over political donations, received equity in New York-based Current Media, according to a statement at the time.

“As the old adage says: ‘When the law is on your side, you argue the law. When the facts are on your side, you argue the facts. When neither the law nor the facts are on your side, you pound the table,’’’ Laura Nelson, a Current TV spokeswoman, said in a statement yesterday. ‘‘It is well established that over his professional career Mr. Olbermann has specialized in pounding the table.’’

Olbermann’s lawyer, Patricia Glaser, said today in a phone interview that Current TV’s lawsuit had no merit and posed no problem for her client.

In a post on Twitter, Olbermann wrote: “After reading the @Current filing my attorneys and I think it should be subtitled ‘How to Try To Pound The Table...And Miss.’”

Olbermann’s case is Olbermann Broadcasting Empire v. Current TV; the cross-complaint is Current TV, LLC v. Olbermann Broadcasting Empire, BC482335, California Superior Court (Los Angeles).

To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in Los Angeles at epettersson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at adunn8@bloomberg.net


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