Legal experts predict 'ugly battle' between Keith Olbermann and Current TV

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Published April 06, 2012

| FoxNews.com

The war between Keith Olbermann and his former employer, Current TV, is now in the hands of the courts.

Less than a week after it was announced that he was booted from his post at the Al Gore/Joel Hyatt co-founded network, Olbermann filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court on Thursday, claiming that Current TV violated his contract and owes him up to $70 million in unpaid compensation.

According to his complaint, Olbermann was “publically terminated” without cause, and is suing for breach of contract, sabotage and disparagement. Included in an array of explosive claims he makes about the network, the news anchor alleges that Current refused to invest resources into the show, disclosed confidential terms of his contract, linked his “name and goodwill “with corporate endorsements without his consent, and refused to give him editorial control over special election coverage.

However, after firing Olbermann, Current released a statement claiming that the network’s values “of respect, openness, collegiality and loyalty to our viewers” were no longer evident in their relationship with the now former “Countdown” host.

California-based criminal defense attorney David Wohl said the situation is tough to analyze without knowing the full terms of Olbermann’s contract, but in general, networks reserve the right to make critical decisions about on-air talent.

“Most of the time the survival of the show hinges on ratings, which in Olbermann's case were very poor. That's likely to be a big problem for his the success of his lawsuit. Also, Current TV claims he was an absentee anchor far too often, and simply didn't live up to the terms of his contract. This will without doubt result in a counter- suit from Current TV,” Wohl told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column.

“On the other hand, he claims, and most observers seem to agree, that the broadcast facilities at Current TV were subpar, making it very difficult for him to produce and star in a top notch show that would garner good ratings,” he added.  “This lawsuit will probably highlight significant contractual violations on both sides, and should prompt a settlement, although that could be well down the road in what could be a very ugly legal battle.”

And Mitchell Langberg of Brownstein/Hyatt/Farber/Schreck LLP, said the suit comes as no surprise.

“Olbermann had a hefty contract and his departure was sudden, with no hint of any improper behavior from him.  That is just too much money to walk away from when you think you have done nothing wrong,” he told us. “And, it seems there is a lot of risk for Current.  The allegations, if true, suggest a level of management inexperience and chaos that cannot be good for maintaining advertisers or attracting talent."

In a statement issued to FoxNews.com on Thursday, Current TV said that Olbermann was terminated for “serial, material breaches of his contract, including the failure to show up at work, sabotaging the network and attacking Current and its executives.”

“We will be happy to engage on the law and the facts in the appropriate forum. It is well established that over his professional career Mr. Olbermann has specialized in pounding the table,” added the network’s rep. “However, Mr. Olbermann, by filing his false and malicious lawsuit, has now put this matter into a legal process where there will be an objective review of the facts. We hope Mr. Olbermann understands that when it comes to the legal process, he is actually required to show up.”

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