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Raiders Go on Offense, Countersue Commission

January 07, 1988|KENNETH REICH | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Raiders Wednesday answered the Coliseum Commission's $57-million breach of contract lawsuit against the team by filing a countersuit asking at least $9.5 million in damages for what the team said was a breach of contract by the commission.

The complaint filed in Superior Court charges that the commission has "in bad faith denied the existence of its obligation to modernize the Coliseum" and therefore, in effect, has kept the Raiders from deriving the income the team would have received had it felt free to build up to 150 luxury suites on the Coliseum rim.

By contrast, the commission, in its suit filed last September, alleged that the team had violated its 1984 contract with the commission by failing to build the boxes.

The lawsuits continue the argument of last spring, when the Raiders stopped construction of the first 60 suites on grounds the commission was not going ahead with a general seating realignment. The commission insisted that it had never made any promise to proceed with the realignment while the suites were going in.

Since last spring, relations between the commission and the team have deteriorated drastically, with the Raiders announcing plans to build a stadium in Irwindale and leave the Coliseum, perhaps even before the team's lease expires in 1992.

In the complaint filed Wednesday, the Raiders claim Coliseum Commission negotiators acknowledged as early as 1980, when they were negotiating to bring the team from Oakland, that the Coliseum had to be renovated to turn it into a more desirable place to play football, specifically with seats constructed closer to the playing field.

The Raiders allege that oral agreements were made that the seating realignment would go forward at the commission's expense and that the Raiders would build the luxury suites at the team's expense.

However, attorneys for the Coliseum Commission have pointed out that the 1984 contract contains no such agreements and that the contract specifically states that there are no side agreements that are not in the text.

The Raiders complaint sought to put blame for the alleged breach of promises on Alexander Haagen, the shopping center developer who has been president of the commission since last February and who soon will leave the commission.

Haagen in a farewell message delivered to the commission at its monthly meeting Wednesday, insisted as he has in the past that no such binding promises as those alleged by the Raiders were ever made and that he had reneged on nothing.

Coliseum Commission attorney Marshall Grossman, commenting on the Raider countersuit, said:

"We expected a cross-complaint from the Raiders. The Raiders have taken the position that the best defense is a good offense, but they're not going to be any more successful in the courtroom with this tactic than they've been on the playing field in the recent past.

Raiders officials and attorneys were unavailable for comment.

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