updated 7/20/2004 10:11:45 AM ET 2004-07-20T14:11:45

Former New York Stock Exchange chief Richard A. Grasso, ousted last year amid turmoil over his huge pay package, sued the exchange Tuesday for at least $50 million, claiming breach of contract and defamation on the part of exchange officials.

The breach-of-contract claims stem from comments made against Grasso by a number of current NYSE executives, including current NYSE chairman John Reed, Grasso spokesman Eric Starkman said.

Grasso is also seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit by state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, who is seeking the return of the bulk of the $187.5 million compensation package that led to Grasso’s resignation last September.

In his suit, Grasso claims the NYSE breached its contract with him by withholding “tens of millions of dollars” in additional salary, and by “maliciously disparaging him through Mr. Reed’s false and defamatory statements.”

The exchange referred reports to an outside attorney for comment. The attorney, Mike York, was not immediately available.

Grasso has repeatedly claimed that he is not seeking personal gain from any countersuit, and said in the suit that he would donate any damages received to charity.

Spitzer sued Grasso and former compensation committee chairman Kenneth Langone on May 24, claiming Grasso and Langone misled the NYSE board of directors about Grasso’s pay package and, in some cases, bullying board members into approving it.

Spitzer is seeking more than $100 million in damages from Grasso, and $18 million from Langone — the amount of the package Spitzer alleged that Langone hid from his fellow compensation committee members.

Grasso and Langone moved the case to U.S. District Court in June, claiming that the NYSE’s status as a federally regulated entity mandated a federal trial. On Monday, Spitzer filed to have the case moved back to a state court, since Grasso was accused of breaking the state’s laws regarding not-for-profit organizations.

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