How do you say “buyer’s remorse” in Arabic? The Qatari royal family likely feels the pangs of regret for paying the princely sum of $500 million to Al Gore and friends to give Al-Jazeera America a slot on satellite-TV and cable channels. Ratings for the news channel, now a year old, remain deep in the Dumpster. That’s hardly surprising. Nobody watched the channel when it was Mr. Gore’s Current TV, either.
Mr. Gore is laughing all the way to the bank — and crying all the way to Chancery Court in Wilmington, Del. He and Joel Hyatt, another former Current TV owner, sued Al-Jazeera on Friday, claiming the network stiffed them for $65 million of the purchase price. The lawsuit filed by David Boies, the lawyer who represented Mr. Gore in the long recount battle in 2000, accuses Al Jazeera American Holdings Inc. of fraud and breach of contract.
The court filing was sealed at the request of Al-Jazeera, which had been averaging a tiny 17,000 viewers in prime time before a small spike in viewership at the end of July, attributed to its coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza.
Mr. Boies, trying to get the seal lifted, says that “Al-Jazeera America wants to give itself a discount on the purchase price that was agreed to nearly two years ago.” At the time of that January 2013 sale, $85 million of the $500 million was placed in escrow against any indemnification obligations of the channel’s parent company, Current Media. The $65 million remaining in the account was to have been released to former Current shareholders when the escrow period ended July 2.
On Tuesday, Al-Jazeera fired back, contending the lawsuit’s claims are “blatantly false and potentially misleading as to the true nature of this commercial dispute.”
The network insists that the escrow account is a “standard business practice” and that Mr. Gore and Mr. Hyatt gave “inaccurate” assurances that Current TV was not in breach of contracts. That resulted in the claims against the money in escrow.
“Al-Jazeera’s indemnification claims are more than the amount held in escrow,” the network said. “The sellers themselves agreed that if Al-Jazeera’s right to indemnification exceeded the escrow fund, the sellers would not receive anything from it.”
Mr. Gore’s 20 percent stake in the sale of Current TV, after debt and taxes, was worth $70 million — just what the former veep and his business partners paid for Current’s predecessor company back in 2004. Turning that $70 million into $500 million in nine years is quite a return on investment, particularly in a blighted economy.
According to Celebritynetworth.com, Mr. Gore is now worth an estimated $300 million, up from $2 million in 2001. Nothing beats a global warming scam to pad a bank account. Mr. Gore’s street cred as an “environmental activist” enables him to escape the left’s censure for selling his network to a fossil-friendly oil sheikdom with a carbon footprint as big as his own. Kermit the Frog once complained that “it’s not easy being green.” But it sure is profitable.