Al Gore and his business partner have filed a lawsuit against Al Jazeera for fraud and breach of contract in connection with the sale of Current TV.
Gore and his partners sold Current TV to the Al Jazeera satellite news network in late 2012 for $500 million, $100 million of which apparently went — or should have gone — into the former VP’s wallet as a 20 percent shareholder. The lawsuit reportedly claims that Al Jazeera has stashed millions in an escrow account that it won’t transfer to Gore and others to complete the transaction.
At the time, environmentalist and global warming/climate change poster boy Gore took a lot of heat, as it were, even from fellow liberal Jon Stewart, for hypocrisy in selling his TV station to Big Oil. Al Jazeera is backed by the royal family of the oil-rich country of Qatar.
Gore’s lawyer told The New York Times that “Al Jazeera America wants to give itself a discount on the purchase price that was agreed to nearly two years ago. We are asking the court to order Al Jazeera America to stop wrongfully withholding the escrow funds that belong to Current’s former shareholders.”
The Al vs. Al lawsuit was filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery (presumably the state where Current TV was incorporated), but it has been placed under seal, which means the complaint is not yet available to the public to read. According other media accounts, however, Gore’s lawsuit seeks $65 million from Al Jazeera. The network says it is currently reviewing the complaint and will offer a comment after that process is completed. In the meantime, Gore’s legal team is seeking a court order to get the legal papers unsealed.
The New York Times separately reported that Gore allegedly guilt-tripped cable channels into carrying Al Jazeera America despite Current TV’s minimal viewership: “To preserve the deal — and the estimated $100 million he would personally receive — [Gore] went to some of those same distributors, who were looking for an excuse to drop the low-rated channel, and reminded them that their contracts with Current TV called it a news channel. Were the distributors going to say that an American version of Al Jazeera didn’t qualify, possibly invoking ugly stereotypes of the Middle Eastern news giant?”
Al Jazeera America has been a less than resounding ratings success so far, however, with just 17,000 viewers in the prime time hours even though it is available in 60 million homes, a domestic footprint that the network sought in buying the channel from Gore and his colleagues for that disproportionate amount in the first place. Al Jazeera America also implemented some limited layoffs earlier this year, with more apparently on the horizon.
At the time of the Current TV sale to Big Oil, the soon-to-be-unemployed staffers declared that Al Gore was full of it in his failure to practice what he preaches in terms of his high-profile environmental/green energy crusade. There was also some speculation that Al Gore rushed the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera in late 2012 to avoid higher 2013 taxes.