Madison Square Garden wasn't the only hotbed of harassment and racism in James Dolan's billion-dollar empire, former workers at the tycoon's media company, Cablevision, told the Daily News.
Dolan ruled over a "frat boy" culture at the cable giant's corporate headquarters in Bethpage, L.I., where an employee says he saw Dolan hurling books during meetings, throwing water across the table and yelling so close to people's faces he would leave a trail of saliva.
Those who experienced the inner workings of the company say Dolan cultivated a boys' club atmosphere where his favorite high-flyers were given the green light to act as they pleased.
"It was a boys' club, a boys' network and the boys could do whatever they wanted to do," said Richard Saavedra, who says he worked at Cablevision for 13 years between 1989 and 2002.
"They did whatever they wanted to do, they would yell, scream, curse in a bunch of meetings, they would chastise people," he added. "You never got in [Dolan's] way, you just made sure it was 'Yes, Mr. Dolan.'"
Cablevision officials denied all the allegations leveled by the former workers. But Saavedra, 36, and another former employee, Lynee Miller, 44, say they decided to speak out in light of the sexual harassment suit brought against Knicks coach Isiah Thomas and the Garden by former team executive Anucha Browne Sanders.
Browne Sanders, 44, a former college basketball player, is suing for $10 million in Manhattan Federal Court after the Knicks fired her in January 2006. She claims she was unfairly axed by Dolan in retaliation for daring to hire a lawyer to pursue sexual-harassment charges against Thomas.
Former Knicks assistant coach Jeff Nix has testified that Browne Sanders said Thomas called her a "bitch" and a "ho." The trial is ongoing.
James Dolan could not be more different than his father, Charles Dolan, a respected businessman who founded Cablevision in 1973, ex-employees said.
Charles Dolan nurtured Cablevision from a small TV operator with 1,500 Long Island customers into a media giant that reaches 4.5 million households and 600,000 businesses in the New York metropolitan area.
With $6 billion in revenues, Cablevision ranked 380th in the 2007 Fortune 500 list of the nation's top corporations.
The Dolans' empire includes the Garden, the Knicks, the Rangers and Radio City Music Hall, making them among the richest families in the U.S.
Charles Dolan was beloved and knew many employees by name, according to Saavedra, who said he joined the company as an analyst when he was 19.
The atmosphere changed dramatically when Dolan's smug and arrogant son took over, he said.
James Dolan would fly from the Garden to Cablevision headquarters in a helicopter, he routinely called people "idiots" and "a------s" and some workers feared being fired on the spot, the ex-employees said.
"He was more raw than you could possibly imagine," Saavedra said. "I've seen him in action, he's a ruthless son of a gun."
Cablevision spokesman Charlie Schueler called the allegations against Dolan "agenda-driven fiction from disgruntled former employees."
"With a 20,000-person workforce, it is both unfortunate and inevitable that some who lose their jobs will be disgruntled," he said. "Discrimination of any kind is not tolerated at Cablevision."
Schueler also specifically denied that Dolan ever threw books or water in meetings, saying: "This is both malicious and categorically false."
Miller, who said she worked at Cablevision from 2001 to 2002, and Saavedra say they were laid off in 2002 when Cablevision axed hundreds of jobs because of restructuring and a decline in its stock value. They insist they are not bitter - and just want people to know the truth about what goes on behind the scenes.
They say Dolan showed his true colors during a videotaped deposition shown last week in federal court to jurors weighing the allegations against Thomas and the Garden.
On the tape, Dolan said when it comes to his business, he listens to no one. "All decisions at the Garden I make on my own," he testified.
He admitted to firing Browne Sanders after she lobbed sex-harassment allegations at Thomas and Knicks star guard Stephon Marbury. He also nonchalantly dismissed allegations she had been cursed to her face.
"At the Garden, is it appropriate for someone to refer to another employee as a 'black bitch' or a 'bitch?'" Browne Sanders' lawyer Anne Vladeck asked.
"No, it's not appropriate," Dolan responded ****ily. "It is also not appropriate to murder anyone. I don't know that that has happened either."
Miller said that Dolan "doesn't have any respect."
"He doesn't talk in a professional manner in any of those meetings," she said. "He talks like he was talking to a bum on the street."
Miller, who worked as an administrative assistant, says her boss once referred to her and her female co-workers as an "Oreo cookie" because they sat in a row and had different colored skin.
When asked why they did not speak up sooner, or leave the company altogether, Miller and Saavedra said the high salaries were a big factor.
"I was paid very well and had nowhere to go," Saavedra said. "I got $80,000 plus a bonus of $30,000-$40,000. That's hard to come by."