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Suit Filed in Sports-Odds Feature Controversy

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Suit Filed in Sports-Odds Feature Controversy

Article excerpt

A man who provided sports odds for the "Latest Line" feature syndicate by Tribune Media Services has filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against TMS and other parties.

Also, oddsmaker George Kregos told E&P that he simultaneously supplied information to both "Latest Line" and the competing "Today's Line" from Columbia Features for an approximately 10-year period.

Finally, Columbia president/editor and former TMS executive Robert Ferguson contended that TMS has been aggressively trying to get "Today's Line" client newspapers to switch to "Latest Line" since Kregos was replaced on the latter feature. This, said Ferguson, may endanger Columbia's survival.

At least some of these charges, revelations, and actions may be discussed in federal court in the not-too-distant future. The Connecticut-based Kregos and his American Sports Wire company filed suit in U.S. District Court in Bridgeport this month against Latest Line Inc., Jolene and Susan McCarthy, and TMS.

Jolene and Susan are the daughter and widow of Jim McCarthy, who did "Latest Line" for what is now TMS until his death in the early 1980s. After that,the feature carried a J. McCarthy byline, but Kregos said it was he who supplied its information from 1982 until earlier this month under a twice-renewed contract with Latest Line Inc.

The second renewal according to Kregos, meant that the current phase of the contract had more than four years to run when he was dropped this month.

Kregos said his work earned the praise of the McCarthys and TMS over the years, and that he never missed a deadline on the seven-day-a-week feature.

"Why is there suddenly a problem when everything was hunky-dory for 10 years?"asked Kregos, whose lawsuit is seeking an injunction, $160,000 in compensatory damages, and an additional amount in punitive damages.

Sources speculated that reason for Kregos being dropped could range from TMS discovering that Kregos was also doing "Today's Line" for Columbia to a desire on TMS's part to increase its share of the syndicated sports-odds market at Columiba's expense - something that would be harder to do if Kregos were still contributing to both features.

Syndicates virtually always compete against each other, of course, and the current recession is making them scramble even harder for more business.

Kregos said that while his contract was with Latest Line Inc., he is sure some TMS people knew for years that he was supplying the "Latest Line" information. For instance, Kregos said at least two TMS executives were aware of this original 1982 agreement with Latest Line Inc., including one who visited his home. Kregos added that he has been sending material directly to TMS's Orlando office for the past eight years.

Ferguson, who was managing editor of TMS from 1984 to 1987, said he did not know during those three years that Kregos was doing both features. Ferguson stated that he discovered this after purchasing Columbia in 1987, and also found out at that point that at least some TMS people had known - starting in 1982 - that Kregos was doing both features.

Yet TMS, according to Ferguson, did promotional and sales efforts over the years claiming that its feature was better than the Columbia one Kregos was also working for.

Ferguson said he is not sure whether any of TMS's current top executives - several of whom joined the syndicate relatively recently - knew that Kregos was doing both features, but added that some TMS people had to be aware of it. …

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