This story has been updated.
A lawsuit and request to permanently enjoin Altice USA from laying off more television workers at News 12 was filed this week.
The lawsuit alleges that Altice ignored commitments made during its $17.7 billion acquisition of Cablevision Systems Corp. The merger closed in June 2016.
The suit was filed in Delaware by the Dolan Family alleging Altice failed keep promises detailed in a 2016 Merger Agreement and for equitable fraud, among other claims.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include: Charles Dolan, founder and former CEO of 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 news anchor with News 12 Networks.
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.
“This lawsuit is without merit and paints an extremely inaccurate representation of our business," Altice said in a statement to Daily Voice. "It is also surprising that the Dolan family would now challenge the strategic and organizational decisions that Patrick Dolan led during his 2 1/2 years with the company as president of News 12."
Patrick Dolan, former News 12 president, a shareholder in News 12's former parent company, Cablevision, and currently a senior network adviser to News 12, said, "The purpose of (the) lawsuit is to enforce Altice's contractual commitment to stand by the employees of News 12."
To induce the sale two years ago, Altice USA agreed to operate News 12 substantially in line with the News 12 business plan through at least the end of 2020.
According to the lawsuit, Altice recognized, accepted and agreed to maintain the network's existing employee base, as well as the quality and legacy of News 12.
The business plan said News 12 would maintain fulltime employment of more than 460 people through 2020.
Charles Dolan said, "As we negotiated with Altice on the sale of Cablevision in 2016, our family was committed to protecting the superb reputation and continued independence of News 12 and its employees. We considered News 12 to be one of Cablevision's most cherished assets and felt immense pride in the service that the news network provides the community.
"Unfortunately for the employees of News 12, Altice has disregarded its solemn promise to operate News 12 according to the News 12 Business Plan, as shown in the layoffs of approximately 70 employees in 2017 and its intent, expressed in writing, to conduct further layoffs starting this week."
Altice recently informed the Dolan Family that it is on the verge of laying off dozens more News 12 employees, including popular News 12 Long Island anchor Colleen McVey, threatening to irreparably harm the quality of the local news content that News 12 creates, the lawsuit said.
McVey, 60, is an Emmy Award-winning anchor with more than 30 years of service to the News 12 Network.
According to the president of Altice USA News, Michael Schreiber, the reason for McVey's impending dismissal, in violation of Altice USA's written representations, is that he is looking for a "fresh look."
Altice has given up any pretext of economic necessity, choosing to capriciously focus on McVey's "look" over her obvious talent and popularity with viewers, the lawsuit claims.
"One of the goals of News 12’s modernization and growth plan is to create a 'fresh look' on its broadcasts to convey innovation and modernism on its TV and digital platforms, including by adopting a new logo and graphics package, set enhancements, and investing in a state-of-the-art broadcast studio," Altice said as part of its filing in response to the lawsuit. "Plaintiffs insinuate that these efforts included the planned termination of Ms. McVey for discriminatory reasons. This charge is both baseless and legally irrelevant to their claims. Altice categorically denies that it has engaged in any discriminatory conduct."
Altice added that it "continues to invest in News 12 and we are very proud that under our leadership, News 12 is the most viewed TV network in Optimum households. We are excited about the future of News 12 and investing further in order to grow its hyperlocal news audience.”
The legal brief supporting the Temporary Restraining Order motion can be viewed by clicking here.
The Dolan Family and McVey are represented by Rob Hoffman and John Reed, partners at DLA Piper LLP.
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