Raese's company files lawsuit against WVU
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The media company owned by John Raese filed a lawsuit late Wednesday against numerous administrators at West Virginia University and another media company in the latest action involving the university's athletic media rights.
West Virginia Radio Corp. filed a complaint in Monongalia Circuit Court against the WVU board of governors and its chairman, Drew Payne, the WVU Foundation, WVU President Jim Clements, WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck, West Virginia Media Holdings, its owner Bray Cary and others.
Raese has maintained West Virginia Media Holdings and WVU illegally colluded to make sure the company received a piece of a lucrative contract for the right to distribute some WVU athletic events.
Sources told the Daily Mail in early 2013 that WVU was reportedly ready to enter a 12-year contract worth upwards of $110 million with IMG College, a multimedia company that works with clients across the world to produce television and print content. Cary's West Virginia Media Holdings was supposedly ready to subcontract with IMG College in the agreement.
Raese's company did business with WVU for years. A perennial political candidate and Morgantown businessman, Raese cried foul almost immediately after word of the agreement became public knowledge.
The 206-page lawsuit alleges Payne, Luck and others used their positions to "sidestep, circumvent, or simply ignore" state law to facilitate contracts that work out in their favor financially.
Particularly, the lawsuit alleges the WVU Foundation illegally invested in Cary's company. It alleges Cary was at one point a member of the foundation board.
The lawsuit characterizes the investment as "disastrous." The Foundation lost more than $5 million on the investment, according to the lawsuit.
When the Foundation sold its investment, the lawsuit alleges Cary, Payne and another man were among the purchasers of the debt.
The lawsuit alleges they purchased the debt at a 65 percent discount, "positioning themselves to benefit tremendously if Defendant WV Media ever became profitable, (by, for example, securing lucrative media rights for West Virginia University athletics)."
The third man involved in that purchase, Ralph Ballard, also allegedly colluded with his brother and the university to avoid proper bidding procedure for expensive university scoreboards.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey reviewed the bid process. He said there was sloppy work involved but didn't think WVU intentionally tried to do anything illegal or inappropriate.
He advised, and WVU agreed, to rebid the contract. IMG is expected to bid again.
Raese has said he won't bid again, but he doesn't think IMG or West Virginia Media Holdings should be allowed to vie for the contract. In the lawsuit he asks that they be barred from any rebid.
The lawsuit states West Virginia Radio Corp. wants compensation for WVU's alleged transgressions. It also calls for punitive damages from Payne, Clements, Luck and others "for their outrageous and scandalous behavior."
Raese's company also wants the court to force Payne, Luck, Clements and others to recuse themselves from any future bids involving these particular media rights.
Although he thinks his company is entitled to plenty of monetary compensation, Raese pledges in the lawsuit to donate any money received beyond attorney's fees to the Foundation "to benefit the WVU Children's Hospital."
Raese's company owns the Dominion Post, MetroNews and other media outlets. The lawsuit was posted online Wednesday on MetroNews' website and can be found at www.dailymail.com.
Late Wednesday, WVU spokesman John Bolt said he was not sure if the university had received notice of the lawsuit. The university does not comment on pending litigation, he said.
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