Former MSG president sues Steinbrenner

Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in April 2009. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner in April 2009. Photo Credit: Getty Images

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Former Madison Square Garden president Bob Gutkowski filed a suit in federal court in Manhattan Friday seeking at least $23 million from Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner.

The suit alleges it was Gutkowski's idea in the mid-1990s that Steinbrenner launch a team-owned TV network, which eventually became YES, and that Steinbrenner failed to live up to repeated promises that Gutkowski would run the network.

Gutkowski said in a statement that he hoped to avoid a suit but that Steinbrenner's representatives sought to prevent him from speaking to the owner.

"Their actions made it very clear that the only way for me to be fairly compensated for the idea that I brought to George and the work that I performed was to sue him,'' Gutkowski said.

A spokesman for Steinbrenner labeled the allegations "patently false and frivolous. They will be proven so. Mr. Gutkowski had nothing to do with the initiation of the idea for for the New York Yankees nor did he have any role in the establishment or success of the YES Network.

"He was never promised that he would be the CEO of the network nor was he promised any high-level position at the network.''

The suit was filed against Steinbrenner personally rather than the Yankees because Gutkowski asserts the owner made promises himself.

Neal Brickman, Gutkowski's attorney, said that even if Steinbrenner, who has been ailing, is unable to recall specifics, other witnesses to meetings involving the two can do so.

That includes current Yankees executives Randy Levine and Lonn Trost.

Gutkowski, who left MSG after its purchase by Cablevision (which owns Newsday), was running a marketing company when he says he went to Steinbrenner and warned him of trouble ahead in his next negotiation for Yankees rights.

The best way to avoid that would be a Yankees-owned network, which became YES and was launched in 2002.

The complaint lays out in extreme detail Gutkowski's version of YES' incubation and birth, in which he portrays himself as having a key role.

Of the $23 million Gutkowski is seeking, $5 million is to compensate for money he would have made as a YES executive.

The other $18 million represents 2 percent of Steinbrenner's 30 percent stake in YES, assuming its total value to be $3 billion, to compensate Gutkowski for what he says was the idea for the network.

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