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 feud over state beverage laws.
Dolan, who has an estimated net worth of $2.5 billion, has introduced facial recognition software in his arena to identify and ban lawyers working to sue him.
The bizarre tactic prompted the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to launch a probe into whether he broke state laws requiring establishments to serve the general public. After catching wind of the investigation, Dolan is alleged to have pinpointed the authority’s inspector, Charles Stravalle, and ordered a PI to follow him home.
Dolan’s alleged cloak-and-dagger tactics are the latest in a string of clashes with the alcohol authority, which could reportedly jeopardize the mogul’s ambitions to construct a sprawling $2.2 billion entertainment venue in Las Vegas.
The episode marked Dolan’s apparent desire to fire back at the alcohol authority’s investigations, including one into his embattled nightclub Lavo – the sale of which is key to his Las Vegas construction venture.
MSG Entertainment denied the tail of Stravalle was linked to the sale of the nightclub when contacted by DailyMail.com, despite the inspector previously probing the Manhattan hotspot last month.
James Dolan, pictured, allegedly ordered a PI to tail a state liquor license board inspector amid a bitter feud over alcohol licensing
Dolan, who owns Madison Square Garden, pictured, has been locked in a bitter feud with the SLA over the renewal of the arena’s liquor license
Dolan’s company, MSG Entertainment, has acknowledged it hired the private eye, but defended the tactic as ‘a common and lawful practice’.
Stravalle says he realized he was being tailed for roughly 100 miles by a black Chevrolet after spotting the vehicle on his back all day earlier this month.
Again spotting the same car camped in front of his home in Queens 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 looking into Dolan’s Manhattan hotspot Lavo following an incident that saw a reveler slashed in the face.
Following an inspection, Stravalle found more than 30 violations including unsanctioned fireworks to a meat slicer covered with ‘old food’, according to the New York Times.
The potentially jeopardizing discoveries came as the nightclub, which is owned by MSG Entertainment’s Tao Group, is attempting to be sold by Dolan as he tries to auction off the subsidiary to finance his 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 that aim to deprive sports fans of beer.
Alongside his stewardship of Madison Square Garden and numerous establishments across New York, Dolan’s company also owns the Knicks and the Rangers.
His iconic arena’s license to operate a sports arena in New York City expires in July, and Dolan’s attempts to permanently renew the license has reportedly been a topic of fierce debate within the licensing authority.
Simultaneously, the New York State Senate is also taking aim at the Garden’s $43 million-a-year property tax exemption.
James Dolan, right, is the CEO of MSG Entertainment, which also owns the Knicks and the Rangers sports teams
The alleged tailing of Stravalle came not long after the SLA inspector probed Dolan’s Manhattan nightclub, Lavo. His company MSG Entertainment denied that the move had any connection to the nightclub
With Dolan under mounting pressure, he installed facial recognition software, a move he has defended, and banned several attorneys after claiming they were working for the state agency to get the arena’s liquor license revoked.
In a contentious petition filed with the Manhattan Supreme Court this month, Dolan’s company reportedly asked a judge to halt the authority’s probes into his dealings and said they were a ‘gangster-like governmental organization’.
And in a statement to DailyMail.com, MSG’s co-counsel Jim Walden of Walden Macht & Haran said: ‘MSG didn’t start this. What is happening at the SLA is just improper – it is a bureaucracy out of control.
‘We have found credible evidence of actual collusion, with the SLA being weaponized to do the bidding of plantiffs’ lawyers.
‘Now the SLA is blocking our effort to get all the evidence. We will expose the SLA’s misconduct 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 of the time asking questions that had no conceivable relation to the purported purpose of the SLA’s investigation,’ the filing said, referring to a recent interview the former cop had with Dolan.
‘Instead, he asked questions based on speculative media reports or shared his own opinions about the Venue Policy. He was combative and antagonistic throughout the interview.’
Dolan’s use of facial recognition software to bar his legal adversaries from Madison Square Garden came as his feud with the liquor board has escalated.
But he defended the tactic in an interview with Good Day New York in January, saying: ‘If you’re suing us, we just asking you please don’t come until you’re done with your argument with us – the end.
‘And yes, we’re using facial recognition to enforce that.’