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Radio star Howard Stern in ‘Sirius’ legal trouble

CBS files lawsuit against the self-proclaimed “King of all Media” for breach of contract. NBC News correspondent Anne Thompson reports.
/ Source: TODAY

Controversial shock jock Howard Stern, now on satellite radio, could be in some "Sirius" legal trouble. He's been hit by his old bosses at CBS with a lawsuit seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. But Stern says it's nothing more than a "personal vendetta." NBC News correspondent Anne Thompson reports.

One observer described the separation of shock jock Howard Stern from CBS radio as a messy divorce — and it just got even messier.

Late Tuesday, in a 43-page complaint, CBS sued Stern for breach of contract, fraud, unjust enrichment and misusing airtime during his final months under contract, stating that he talked on-air about his future move to Sirius satellite radio — a subscription radio service similar to cable TV.

“I’ve been bullied [and] threatened by CBS,” says Stern.

In what he called a pre-emptive strike, Stern held a news conference hours before the suit was announced.

“I showed up to work every day for you guys.  In the last 14 months, I could have not showed up, I could have been sick. I delivered the ratings [and] I delivered the money to you guys. Why are you picking on me?”

CBS claims Stern used its airtime to line his own pockets and build Sirius' subscriber base, essentially giving it free advertising and keeping secret a deal that allowed Stern to collect more than $200 million in Sirius stock for exceeding subscriber targets.“Howard announced in October of 2004 on the air that he was leaving terrestrial radio and going to satellite, and then proceeded to do a one-year commercial for satellite radio that rubbed a lot of people the wrong way at Infinity Broadcasting, which is now CBS Radio,” says Paul Heine of Billboard Radio Monitor.

Stern insisted he acted honorably and honestly, and blasted the lawsuit as a personal vendetta against him by CBS CEO Les Moonves.

“You can't have a lawsuit, and leave me on the air for 14 months and then say, ‘I didn't know what Howard was doing.’ I can't hijack a radio station,” says Stern.

Like many divorces, this one comes down to money, with CBS radio asking for what amounts to millions of dollars, including the value of the Sirius stock Stern received.