A trustee overseeing the settlement of claims made by Houston Regional Sports Network, a parent company for a partnership between the Houston Astros, Houston Rockets and defunct TV network Comcast Sports Net Houston, filed a lawsuit against Comcast Corporation estimated to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
"The lawsuit seeks actual damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees associated with the network’s collapse from defendants, including Comcast, seven of its subsidiaries, including NBC Universal Media," a Houston Chronicle report said Thursday.
Comcast is accused of conspiring to "financially cripple CSN Houston so that it would have no choice but to sell itself to Comcast,” the report said.
More, from the Chronicle:
The Astros and Rockets sold 22.5 percent of the company to Comcast in 2010, and Comcast issued a $100 million secured loan for operating expenses when the network launched in the fall of 2012. But with Comcast unable to arrange carriage agreements with DirecTV, Dish Network, AT&T U-verse and others, and with the Astros threatening to bolt because of unpaid rights fees, several Comcast subsidiaries filed to put the network into involuntary bankruptcy in September 2013.
The suit accuses Comcast and NBC Universal and the individual defendants of “intentionally and willfully (failing) to negotiate and obtain the best possible carriage rates” for CSN Houston, It also accuses Comcast and its officers of dishonest dealings by stating repeatedly that Comcast would buy the network out of bankruptcy and then deciding in March 2014, based on information that network officials say was improperly obtained, that it would not do so.
The regional sports network, which was slated to air both Rockets and Astros games, was dissolved in 2014 after it failed to attain subscriber agreements from providers like AT&T U-Verse and DirecTV, rendering the network unviewable by many in the Houston area.
In 2013, affiliates of Comcast Corporation filed an involuntary bankruptcy petition against CSN Houston. The action surprised the Astros, who held a 46% interest in the network at the time.
The teams lost $550 million in equity in the sports channel, which had been valued at $700 million in 2010, the Houston Chronicle reported. The network was sold to DirecTV in 2014 for $1,000.
“The Houston Astros support this filing on behalf of the Bankruptcy Estate. The filing is consistent with the position the Astros organization has maintained before, during and following the bankruptcy process. We appreciate the effort Mark and his team are investing on our behalf," Astros' general counsel Giles Kibbe said in a statement.
Neither Comcast nor the plaintiffs responded to the Chronicle for comment.
- Will Green