Some lawsuits can be spotted coming a mile away but this one appeared out of nowhere: Bob Gutkowski, who once ran Madison Square Garden and the MSG network, is suing George Steinbrenner over the idea for the Yankees’ YES Network. Keep in mind the network launched in 2002 with Leo Hindery Jr. at the helm and was in the works for years; MSG’s current owner Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) was one of the biggest stumbling blocks to what is now a network valued at roughly $3 billion. Gutkowski claims the idea dates back to 1996 and that Steinbrenner at one point wanted to use the threat of a network to get a $1 billion contract extension from MSG. He wants damages of at least $23 million.
Steinbrenner’s rep Howard Rubinstein told the NYT: “Mr. Gutkowski had nothing to do with the initiation of the idea for an R.S.N. for the New York Yankees, nor did he have any role in the establishment or the success of the YES Network.” Gutkowski was running a sports entertainment marketing company during the time he said he was in discussions with Steinbrenner. He later became a consultant to the YES Network—instead of the job he says he was promised, replacing Hindery as CEO when he left in 2004. (Hindery’s InterMedia Advisors, LLP is backing Steve Brill and Gordon Crovitz at Journalism Online.) Richard Sandomir has lots more detail.