While Al Jazeera insisted that the initial complaint last week from the ex-VP and former Current TV CEO Joel Hyatt be sealed, a now-heavily redacted version sheds light on what exactly the $65 million in escrow that AJ won’t hand over to Al Gore and crew from last year’s $500 million sale is being used for: pricey distribution deals, legal bills and other expenses. “The baseless and fraudulent claims against the Escrow Balance that are the subject at issue in this litigation represent an attempt to get the Former Members to foot the bill for the financially disastrous post-acquisition business decisions,” the 146-page August 20 filing in Delaware court revealed (read it here). To be specific, it’s referencing various battles with Time Warner Cable, AT&T, Dish Network and the also sealed lawsuit last month from DirecTV. The escrow is, as the more recent filing states, “a reservoir from which to pull money to buy favor with its distributors.”
Founded in 2005, Current TV was sold to Al Jazeera in January 2013, with Al Jazeera America debuting in the station’s place on August 20 that year. While everyone knows that getting to that debut was a bumpy road and some initially refused to carry the new outlet, Al Jazeera’s response today was to still not talk about the lawsuit from the almost-President of the United States. “The plaintiffs and we have asked for certain portions of the complaint that deal with confidential business practices to be maintained under seal,” an AJ spokesperson said. “The filed public version of the complaint reflects both parties’ redactions. The court will rule on whether the redactions should be maintained. Until that time, we will have no further comment on this issue.”
Gore and Hyatt are not so reticent about either the present or the past when it comes to their relationship with Al Jazeera. “Plaintiffs initially harbored serious reservations about selling Current Media to Defendant,” the August 20 redacted filing also says. “After careful due diligence, however, including consultations with several former senior U.S. government officials, Plaintiffs decided to meet with Defendant,” it adds. Turns out those meetings went well enough that Gore and Hyatt decided to sell to Al Jazeera in late 2012. “Plaintiffs believed that AJ’s presence in the United States would likely result in more influence by the United States on AJ as opposed to more influence by AJ on American viewers.”
Perhaps, but they seemed to have a very distinct influence on Gore and Hyatt’s wallet.
David Boies and Christopher Duffy of Boies Schiller & Flexner LLP are representing the ex-VP and Hyatt in the matter with Gregory Varallo, Kevin Gallagher of Wilmington’s Richards Layton & Finger. No information is available on who is representing Al Jazeera in the case.