James Dolan, the embattled owner of the NBA’s New York Knicks and Madison Square Garden, is overpaid and spends too much time touring with his band rather than looking after his businesses, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of MSG Company shareholders.
Filed in Delaware court, the lawsuit alleges that Dolan’s pay in recent years is excessive compared to that of executives at other entertainment companies. The 63-year-old executive earned $75.6 million over the last three years, compared to an average of $17 million for his peers, despite the fact that he “works at MSG only part time,” the suit said.
The plaintiffs also allege that Dolan spends an outsized portion of his time as the frontman and guitarist for his band, JD & the Straight Shot. The suit notes that the band performed 50 times across six countries in 2017 alone, including gigs in 41 U.S. cities.
A Madison Square Garden Company spokesperson pushed back on the notion that Dolan is overpaid or distracted, arguing that he has created the equivalent of $3.4 billion in value for shareholders since the company was spun off from MSG Networks and $2 billion since he became CEO. The spokesperson noted that much of Dolan’s pay was tied to company performance and said the lawsuit was filed on behalf of a single plaintiff, the Norton C. Willcox Testamentary Trust, by a law firm that has filed dozens of similar suits against other companies in recent years.
“This lawsuit amounts to nothing more than corporate harassment. The company stands by its policies and practices,” Madison Square Garden Company said in a statement.
The Dolan family, with holds several seats on MSG’s board of directors, called the lawsuit as a farce.
“These [law] firms represent the worst in our legal system,” the Dolan family said in a statement. “They manufacture complaints and then advertise for clients, also known as trolling. Members of these firms tried the same tactic at Cablevision. They lost and will lose again. We look forward to fully litigating this matter to conclusion. We will never settle nor give in to this corporate extortion.”
The Madison Square Garden Company includes the Knicks, the NHL’s New York Rangers, Madison Square Garden itself and Radio City Music Hall, among various other properties.
Dolan has faced widespread public criticism in recent years over his handling of the Knicks, who have experienced little on-court success. Footage emerged in March of Dolan ejecting a fan from MSG after he told the Knicks owner to sell the franchise.
Pitchfork was first to report the lawsuit