Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan is accused of hiring a private investigator to tail a liquor authority inspector for 100 miles amid a bitter dispute over state drink laws.
Dolan, who has an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, has introduced facial recognition software to his field to identify and bar lawyers from working to sue him.
The bizarre tactic led the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to launch an investigation to determine whether it violated state laws that require establishments to serve the general public. After learning of the investigation, Dolan allegedly identified the authority’s inspector, Charles Stravalle, and ordered a private investigator to follow him to his home.
Dolan’s alleged swashbuckling tactics are the latest in a series of run-ins with the alcohol authority, which could reportedly jeopardize the mogul’s ambitions to build a sprawling $2.2 billion entertainment venue in Las Vegas.
The episode marked Dolan’s apparent desire to respond to alcohol authority inquiries, including one into his beleaguered Lavo nightclub, the sale of which is key to his Las Vegas construction company.
MSG Entertainment denied that Stravalle’s queue was related to the sale of the nightclub when contacted by DailyMail.com, despite the inspector previously investigating the Manhattan hotspot last month.
James Dolan, pictured, allegedly ordered an IP to tail a state liquor license board inspector amid a bitter dispute over alcohol licenses.
Dolan, owner of Madison Square Garden, pictured, has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with the SLA over the renewal of the stadium’s liquor license.
Dolan’s company, MSG Entertainment, acknowledged that it hired the private detective, but defended the tactic as “common and legal practice.”
Stravalle says he realized a black Chevrolet was following him for approximately 100 miles after seeing the vehicle on his back all day earlier this month.
Once again, seeing the same car parked in front of his Queens home and witnessing the driver pointing a camera at him, Stravalle called the police.
Dolan’s rivalry with the State Liquor Authority inspector reportedly ignited in February after Stravalle was tasked with investigating Dolan’s Manhattan hotspot, Lavo, following an incident at in which a reveler was slashed across the face.
Upon inspection, Stravalle found more than 30 violations, including unauthorized fireworks in a meat slicer covered in “old food,” according to the New York Times.
The potentially dangerous discoveries came as the nightclub, which is owned by MSG Entertainment’s Tao Group, is trying to be sold by Dolan as he tries to auction off the subsidiary to finance his Las Vegas megastructure.
But his clash with Stravalle comes amid a year-long rivalry with the liquor authority that has also seen Dolan publicly mock the body as killjoys who aim to deprive sports fans of beer.
In addition to his management of Madison Square Garden and numerous New York outlets, Dolan’s company also owns the Knicks and Rangers.
His iconic stadium’s license to operate a sports arena in New York City expires in July, and Dolan’s attempts to permanently renew the license have reportedly been a topic of fierce debate within the licensing authority.
Simultaneously, the New York State Senate is also targeting the Garden’s $43 million a year property tax break.
James Dolan, right, is the CEO of MSG Entertainment, which also owns the Knicks and Rangers sports teams.
The alleged tracking of Stravalle came shortly after the SLA inspector investigated Dolan’s Lavo nightclub in Manhattan. His company MSG Entertainment denied that the move had any connection to the nightclub.
With Dolan under increasing pressure, he installed facial recognition software, a move he has defended, and barred several lawyers after claiming they were working for the state agency to get the stadium’s liquor license revoked.
In a contentious petition filed in Manhattan Supreme Court this month, Dolan’s company allegedly asked a judge to halt the authority’s investigations into its dealings, saying they were a “gangster-like government organization.”
And in a statement to DailyMail.com, MSG co-adviser Jim Walden of Walden Macht & Haran said: ‘MSG didn’t start this. What is happening in the SLA is simply inappropriate: it is bureaucracy out of control.
“We have found credible evidence of actual collusion, with the SLA being armed to comply with the orders of the plaintiffs’ lawyers.
‘Now the SLA is blocking our effort to get all the evidence. We will expose the misconduct of the SLA through the legal tools we have to defend MSG’.
Noting Stravalle’s crusade against Dolan, the filing also alleges that he launched a “harassment campaign against MSG.”
“Stravalle spent nearly half the time asking questions that had no conceivable connection to the purported purpose of the SLA investigation,” the document says, referring to a recent interview the former police officer had with Dolan.
‘Instead, he asked questions based on speculative media reports or shared his own views on the Politics of the venue. He was combative and antagonistic throughout the interview.’
Dolan’s use of facial recognition software to exclude his legal adversaries from Madison Square Garden came as his dispute with the liquor board escalated.
But he defended the tactic in an interview with Good Day New York in January, saying, “If you’re suing us, we just ask that you don’t come in until you’re done with your discussion with us — the end.”
“And yes, we are using facial recognition to enforce that.”