NEW YORK, Oct. 2, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- A lawsuit filed for the Dolan Family, September 4 was amended to include an additional plaintiff, Danielle Campbell, an award-winning veteran anchor and reporter at News 12.
Lawsuit Filed September 4
A lawsuit and request to permanently enjoin Altice USA was filed September 4 in the Court of Chancery of the State of Delaware by the Dolan Family against Altice USA (NYSE: ATUS) for failure to abide by promises Altice made in a 2016 Merger Agreement and for equitable fraud, among other claims.
The lawsuit targets Altice USA and alleges that the company ignored commitments made as part of its merger with Cablevision Systems Corporation (Cablevision). The merger of Altice and Cablevision closed in June 2016 for a value of $17.7 billion.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit originally included: Charles Dolan, founder and former CEO, Cablevision; Helen Dolan; James Dolan, former CEO of Cablevision; Patrick Dolan, president of News 12 at the time of the sale; and Colleen McVey, current employee of and news anchor with News 12 Networks. The amended lawsuit filed yesterday included Danielle Campbell.
This lawsuit was filed to protect current employee jobs and programming quality at News 12, which operates a group of local news television channels throughout New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.
Danielle Campbell Background
Danielle Campbell is an Emmy and Edward R. Murrow award-winning news anchor who has worked at News 12 for nearly 30 years.
Ms. Campbell is News 12's specialist on environmental issues, a subject of intense concern for Long Islanders. She is also known for her beautifully-crafted stories on Long Island's history in her ongoing series "L.I.'s Hidden Past." Ms. Campbell has been on the scene of many breaking Long Island stories, including the Fisher-Buttafuoco episode, the Avianca and TWA plane crashes, major murder trials including the Golub and Tankleff cases, and the Katie Beers kidnapping. She was also an anchor during News 12's coverage of the 9/11 attacks, and she was twice sent to Haiti to cover its major earthquake and aftermath.
However, Altice slated Campbell's reporter position for elimination in the next round of layoffs.
Ms. Campbell was born on Long Island, and she became a journalist at News 12 due to her personal concern for the issues facing Long Islanders. She is part of a dedicated News 12 staff that has worked diligently for years to build News 12's reputation as a news outlet that offers value, integrity, and in-depth reporting.
The most recent News 12 talent survey revealed that Ms. Campbell has above-average ratings from viewers as compared to other Long Island reporters and contained a high awareness score among the viewing public. She also routinely ranks in the Top 5 at news 12 for statistics related to social media.
Colleen McVey Background
Ms. Colleen McVey, 60, an Emmy award winning, prominent anchor at News 12, with more than 30 years of service to the network. Ms. McVey tests well above average in News 12's target demographic, based on talent study research conducted by the marketing department of Altice USA.
In making the decision to terminate McVey, Altice has given up any pretext of economic necessity, choosing to capriciously focus on Ms. McVey's "look" over her obvious talent and popularity with viewers.
Patrick Dolan Comments
Patrick Dolan, who was president of News 12 at the time of its sale to Altice USA, commented, "Altice has disregarded its promise to operate News 12 according to the News 12 Business Plan. The purpose of both the original complaint and now the amended one, is to protect the employees of News 12 and enforce Altice's contractual commitment."
Dolan said, "The targeting of Campbell, (55), and veteran anchor McVey, (60) – both 30-year veterans of News 12 – suggests that Altice is engaging in age discrimination as well as thinning out the News 12 staff. Colleen and Danielle are passionate journalists who have dedicated their careers to serving Long Islanders. Targeting them because certain executives want a so-called 'fresh look' is reprehensible and a disservice to the L.I. public."
In 2016 to induce the sale, and the inclusion of News 12 in the sale, Altice USA unambiguously agreed to operate News 12 substantially in accordance with the News 12 Business Plan through at least the end of 2020.
The business plan provided News 12 would employ full-time equivalent headcount of 462 people throughout this period.
Altice expressly recognized, accepted and agreed, in adhering to the News 12 Business Plan, to incur cumulative losses of up to $60 million, which has not occurred, in the operation of News 12 over the period to maintain the network's existing employee base, as well as the quality and legacy of News 12.
2016 Merger Agreement
A key provision of the 2016 Merger Agreement was the requirement for Altice to operate News 12 in accordance with News 12's Business Plan through at least the end of 2020 and support News 12 employees who were responsible for making the network unique among local television stations.
Altice agreed to these nonstandard provisions in a transaction the scale of Cablevision, because Altice knew that continuing the legacy of News 12 was an important consideration for the Dolan Family and a necessary inducement to agree to the merger.
These covenants were of such importance to the merger that Cablevision intentionally disclosed these protections to public shareholders.
Altice Breached Merger Agreement
Turning its back on its prior representations and promises, in 2017 Altice eliminated approximately 70 News 12 positions — in direct violation of News 12's agreed-upon business plan incorporated into the Merger Agreement.
Months ago, Altice began to plan the termination of dozens more News 12 employees, including Ms. McVey and Ms. Campbell, threatening to irreparably harm the quality of the local news content that News 12 creates, the livelihoods of News 12's employees, and the legacy that the Dolan Family protected through explicit Merger Agreement provisions.
Plaintiffs' lawsuit requests, in sum, that the Court enter judgment in favor of plaintiffs, enjoining Altice USA from:
- Terminating employment of any current employee of News 12, other than in the ordinary course of business to replace such individual for obvious cause with another person with equivalent qualifications;
- Taking any action that would cause News 12 to cease to operate in substantial compliance with the News 12 Business Plan; and
- Taking any action that would, in any way, violate or breach the Merger Agreement.
The lawsuit further requests ordering Altice USA to operate News 12 in substantial compliance with the News 12 Business Plan through at least the year 2020.
The plea for injunctive relief targets Altice USA, since the company ignored the commitments it made to attain its $17.7 billion merger with Cablevision.
The primary purpose of the lawsuit is to protect News 12 employees, consistent with the promises made by Altice in the Merger Agreement, and to continue News 12's rich legacy as one of the foremost local television stations in the U.S.
The amended lawsuit can be viewed at https://www.scribd.com/document/389966322/Dolan-et-al-v-Altice-et-al-Verified-First-Amended-Complaint.
The Dolan Family, Ms. McVey, and Danielle Campbell are represented by Rob Hoffman and John Reed, partners at DLA Piper LLP (US).
About News 12
News 12 is a group of cohesive, regional cable news television channels serving nearly 3 million households in New York State, Connecticut, and New Jersey including two boroughs of New York City and most of Long Island.
News 12 provides news coverage 24 hours a day, and focuses on providing award-winning, hyper-local, in-depth news coverage that is rare in the United States, particularly with respect to the region it serves.
The Dolan Family deliberately and methodically built News 12 as the foremost hyper-local news source for the edification of Long Island, Bronx, Brooklyn, and other communities.
Due to the pre-merger journalistic freedom provided by Cablevision's ongoing financial support, the employees of News 12 were able to pursue important stories addressing significant local issues relevant to millions of individuals residing in the coverage area.
No news station would have otherwise had the resources to uncover and report these vital stories.
News 12 was and is of singular importance to the Dolan Family, News 12's employees, and the viewers within News 12's coverage community.
Altice USA (NYSE: ATUS) is a Delaware corporation. Altice Europe is a Dutch company. Altice Europe is successor in interest to Altice N.V., and thereby bound to the terms of the 2016 Merger Agreement.
Altice USA is one of the largest broadband communications and video service providers in the United States, delivering broadband, pay television, telephony services, proprietary content and advertising services to approximately 4.9 million residential and business customers across 21 states through its Optimum and Suddenlink brands.
SOURCE The Dolan Family