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O'Donnell files $125 million countersuit against Rosie publisher. She accuses Gruner + Jahr of breaching its contract with her, launching a smear campaign against her, and even briefly imprisoning her in her office

By Gary Susman
Updated October 22, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
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I’ll see your $100 million, and I’ll raise you $125 million. That’s the latest response from Rosie O’Donnell in the legal poker game over the fate of Rosie magazine. As expected, she’s countersuing publisher Gruner + Jahr, which sued her three weeks ago for pulling out of the monthly bearing her name, effectively shuttering a women’s magazine that had endured for 125 years as McCall’s before O’Donnell partnered with the publisher in 2001.

In its suit, the publisher accused O’Donnell of breach of contract and bad faith, saying she had crippled the magazine by moving away from her Queen of Nice persona earlier this year, which has seen her walking away from her successful talk show, coming out as a lesbian, and returning to her caustic stand-up comedy routines. O’Donnell’s announcement last month that she was ending her partnership with the publisher effectively killed the magazine, whose 120 staffers G+J fired last week. The final issue is due on newsstands in November.

In her countersuit, according to Reuters, O’Donnell says that G+J took editorial control from her by firing her handpicked editor and other staffers loyal to her, launched a smear campaign against her, and even imprisoned her briefly in her office, ”forced to wait there for 90 minutes” by a security guard before an Aug. 15 meeting with the new editor. According to the complaint, ”G+J and [CEO Dan] Brewster had launched a campaign to disparage O’Donnell and usurp her editorial control, to coerce into ceding her editorial control renegotiating her contractual relationship with G+J in G+J’s favor or coerce her into terminating her joint venture with G+J.”

A G+J spokesperson said the company had reviewed O’Donnell’s countersuit and responded, ”We stand by our version of the facts, which are set out in our complaint against Ms. O’Donnell.”

O’Donnell had also hoped to place on her court docket the case of Alex and Derek King, the Florida boys whose conviction in the fatal beating of their father was overturned last week. O’Donnell’s advocacy on behalf of children extended to her hiring a high-profile lawyer, Miami’s Jayne Weintraub, to assist the boys’ legal team in mediation, where they are trying to work out a new deal with prosecutors before the case is retried. But James Stokes, the lawyer for Alex King, has rejected O’Donnell’s help. He told NBC’s ”Today” on Tuesday that the offer came ”with too many strings attached,” and that he would have to ”gracefully decline” O’Donnell’s assistance.

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