A month after the former VP and ex-Current TV CEO Joel Hyatt went after Al Jazeera America for $65 million held in escrow, the Qatar-backed outlet has rippingly responded. Stressing that they had legitimate claims to the funds to handle various distribution schisms, AJAM’s redacted September 18 counterclaim calls the breach of contract and fraud action by Gore and Hyatt last month a “sham lawsuit, larded with vituperative and irrelevant accusations.”
AJAM asserts that despite what they said in their lawsuit, Gore and Hyatt always agreed that the funds in escrow would be held to deal with potential carriage contract bust-ups. Such bust-ups is exactly what happened with Time Warner Cable and AT&T and others when AJ took over 8-year old Current TV for about $500 million last January. Most of those matters were settled and Al Jazeera America debuted in over 30 million homes on August 20, 2013. The would-be POTUS was believed to have made around $100 million from the sale.
“Al Jazeera America has asked the court to throw out these meritless claims and award damages to Al Jazeera America,” AJAM said in a statement about the previous lawsuit and their 235-page filing in the Court of Chancery in Delaware (read it here). “Al Jazeera America is confident that the court will dismiss the Gore-Hyatt complaint and rule in its favor.”
Confident is one way of putting it, so is combative. In their lawsuit, AJAM slam the August 15 filing by Gore and Hyatt as a “rambling, largely incomprehensible 143-page, 361-paragraph rant” with the intention “to grab headlines.” Going for some media coverage of their own, AJAM also allege that Gore and Hyatt wanted to be paid millions to serve on an advisory board after the deal to sell Current was done. AJAM says they rejected that move in concern that “it smacked of self-dealing.” The two also were supposedly “desperately negotiating” the deal with AJ to be sealed up so they could get out of “millions of dollars in taxes,” the filing earlier this week claims. The two reportedly “gloated to each other about the ‘windfall’ they were to receive from the sale, it adds
For the record, the other side calls BS. “Our complaint explains how Al Jazeera improperly tried to use our escrow funds to pay the distributors that it wants to carry its channel in the U.S.,” powerhouse attorney David Boies said in a statement for his clients Gore and Hyatt. “After trying to block our clients’ request that their entire complaint be made public, Al Jazeera has now responded by making false claims to defend its behavior. We are confident that we will prevail when the court hears our case.”
Andrew Deutsch, Michael Hynes and Jason Gerstein of the NYC office of DLA Piper LL are representing Al Jazeera America in their lawsuit. Charles Scheeler from DLA’s Batimore office is also working on the case as is John Reed and Scott Czerwonka of the firm’s Wilmington branch.