Just as Cable News Network held a press conference Thursday to announce that
it had hired Paula Zahn to host a new morning show, Fox News Channel filed a
lawsuit against N.S. Bienstock Inc., Zahn's agency, for allegedly inducing her
to breach her contract with FNC.
FNC -- which fired Zahn Wednesday for talking with CNN before her contract
expired -- also accused Bienstock of teaming up with CNN 'in a large-scale
effort to attract better-recognized personalities to increase the appeal of
CNN's news shows,' according to the complaint.
In addition to Zahn, Bienstock has lured other talent it represents to CNN,
including former ABC News reporter Aaron Brown, former NBC executive producer
Kim Bondy, former ABC correspondent Shiela Macvicar, former ABC News executive
producer Shelley Lewis, former WFTS-TV reporter Elaine Cagas Quijano and
political analyst Michele Mitchell, FNC said.
FNC claimed that Bienstock began negotiating with Zahn on behalf of CNN last
month, even though she is not free to negotiate with another network until her
contract expires Feb. 28.
Sources said CNN offered Zahn a contract worth $2.1 million annually, more
than tripling the $600,000 salary she earned at FNC. Zahn and CNN general
manager Sid Bedingfield declined to discuss the terms of her CNN deal
Bedingfield dismissed FNC's claims. 'We made what we believe and know to be a
contractually legal offer to Paula last week,' he said.
FNC beat CNN to the announcement that Zahn was joining the latter by
announcing her termination Wednesday. Zahn said Thursday that she was
'disappointed' with the way FNC handled the issue, and she originally didn't
plan on announcing that she was joining CNN for another six months.
'I certainly have handled myself with the highest degree of honesty and
integrity,' Zahn added, noting that she has had legal counsel advising her on
contractual issues throughout the process.
Bedingfield said the morning show, which will be based at a street-level
studio in the Time & Life Building in Manhattan, would debut in late
He offered few details about the new show, but he noted that it will include
content on pop culture and social trends.
'We want to give people obviously the news of the day, but we want to broaden
the definition of news,' Bedingfield said.
Zahn has experience in the morning-show format as a former host of
CBS This Morning.
FNC alleged tortuous interference in its suit against Bienstock. The network
is seeking undetermined money damages and other costs.