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Former Cablevision owner files suit against Altice USA over News 12 channels

The Dolan family, which owned Cablevision Systems Corp. prior to its sale to Altice USA Inc. in 2016, is suing Altice, claiming breach of contract related to the deal.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 4, 2018, in the Delaware Court of Chancery, alleges that when Altice bought Cablevision in June 2016 for $17.7 billion, it made certain promises in regards to the operation of News 12, a business segment that operates a group of local news television channels throughout New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.

According to the lawsuit, Altice agreed to operate News 12 in accordance with the existing News 12 business plan through the end of 2020, which stipulates that News 12 will operate with 462 full-time equivalent employees. Moreover, in making this pledge, Altice agreed to incur cumulative losses of up to $60 million in the operation of News 12 to maintain the network's existing employee base, as well as the quality and legacy of News 12 through 2020, according to the suit.

The Dolans say this loss has not yet occurred but Altice is already making job cuts.

"Altice has disregarded its solemn promise to operate News 12 according to the News 12 Business Plan ... The purpose of today's lawsuit is to enforce Altice's contractual commitment to stand by the employees of News 12," said Patrick Dolan, who was president of News 12 at the time of the sale to Altice, in a news release. Patrick Dolan now serves as a senior network advisor for News 12.

The lawsuit seeks to block Altice from laying off any current employee of News 12, other than in the ordinary course of business to replace an individual for obvious cause. The suit also seeks to force Altice to comply with the News 12 business plan through 2020.

Altice USA said in an emailed statement the Dolans' lawsuit is "completely without merit."

"Our News 12 team is comprised of the most talented journalists and staff in the news business and Altice USA remains committed to offering meaningful news coverage, enhancing our news product for our local communities, and growing our audience," the company said, adding that News 12 remains the most viewed TV network in legacy Cablevision households.

Also on Sept. 4, Altice said it made new hires to its Altice USA News division, which includes both the News 12 network group and the U.S. division of i24NEWS, the international news and current affairs network.