NEW YORK — The internecine struggle between Rosie O’Donnell and the publisher of her namesake magazine has erupted into full-scale warfare.
Gruner and Jahr, publisher of Rosie, filed a complaint with the Supreme Court of the state of New York Wednesday seeking at least $100 million in damages on three separates counts from O’Donnell and her company Lucky Charms Entertainment. G+J alleges that O’Donnell breached her contract when she walked away from the magazine two weeks ago.
In a bitterly worded 20-page complaint with enough background gossip to fill all of Page Six for days, the company alleged that the situation at the magazine had become untenable after O’Donnell, “having recently terminated her daytime television talk show, began to transform her public persona from the warm, fun-loving, ‘Queen of Nice’ to a self-proclaimed ‘über bitch’ and to behave erratically and in defiance of her contractual commitments to G+J.”
The complaint also accused O’Donnell of making “relentless attempts to fire or cause the firing of the editor in chief (who had been hired with O’Donnell’s specific consent); efforts to usurp the duties, undermine the authority, and countermand the assignments of the editor in chief, and to exercise unfettered control over the content and appearance of the magazine, despite O’Donnell’s acknowledged lack of experience in publishing magazines and her infrequent appearances at the magazine’s offices.”
O’Donnell was unavailable for comment, but in a letter sent by her attorney to G+J on Sept. 18 detailing her reasons for terminating the joint venture, O’Donnell said that G+J had breached the terms of the agreement by firing editor Cathy Cavendar and art director Doug Turshen in July without O’Donnell’s consultation. The letter also claimed that new editor Susan Toepfer shut O’Donnell out of the editing process and accused G+J of engaging in a smear campaign against O’Donnell that “includ[ed] many false statments.”
Her spokeswoman said that O’Donnell plans to countersue and that “she will fight this suit aggressively. Her name and integrity are at stake.”
A lawsuit from G+J had been expected.
The day that O’Donnell announced she was folding the magazine, the company sent out a press release (titled, ironically, “Rosie O’Donnell Announcement Saddens G+J USA”) that excoriated the former talk show queen for pulling the plug on her magazine and “walk[ing] away from her obligation.”
The fight between O’Donnell and G+J began in July after sagging newsstand sales prompted a switch in editors at the magazine.
According to G+J, O’Donnell agreed to replace Cavendar with Toepfer, a former deputy editor from People. The two did not take to one another. Within days, according to the complaint, O’Donnell attempted to have Toepfer removed. But Dan Brewster, the company’s chief executive officer, refused to comply. The situation went from bad to worse and two weeks ago, O’Donnell announced that she was folding the magazine, which had been launched in the spring of 2001. Rosie bowed as a replacement for the unprofitable McCall’s, which it had closed.
The December issue of Rosie is expected to be its last.