Gore Sues Al Jazeera Over Current TV Deal

Says Company Has Withheld $65M In Payments
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Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore has sued Al Jazeera, the Qatar-based media company that purchased his Current TV in 2013 for $500 million, in state court in Wilmington, Delaware, claiming it has failed to make payments to himself and his partners.

According to a case summary of the suit, Gore claims that Al Jazeera has withheld about $65 million in payments due him and his partners in an escrow account. According to the summary, about $85 million of the purchase price was placed in escrow in 2013, mainly for the purpose of satisfying indemnification obligations of the sellers. Those unused funds were to be returned after the escrow period on July 2, 2014.

“Rather than return the $65 million remaining in the escrow, as it was obligated to do, Defendant, on June 27, 2014, submitted five claim certificates through which it attempts to manufacture several ways to retain all of the escrow balance for itself in express violation of the merger agreement,” according to the case summary.

Gore, who formed Current TV in 2005, sold the cable network in January 2013 to Al Jazeera, which then used the channel to launch its Al Jazeera America network. The sale was surprising at the time in that Al Jazeera was willing to pay such a hefty price for a network with minuscule ratings. The deal highlighted the value of carriage – despite its low ratings, the network was available in about 58 million homes. Although it suffered some resistance in the beginning – Time Warner Cable initially dropped the network but later reinstated it – Al Jazeera America is now available in about 55 million homes in the U.S.

In a statement, Gore’s attorney, David Boies, said that Al Jazeera “wants to give itself a discount,” over the purchase price it agreed to in 2012.

“We are asking the court to order Al Jazeera America to stop wrongfully withholding the escrow funds that belong to Current’s former shareholders,” Boies said in the statement.

The case has been filed under seal in Delaware Chancery Court in Wilmington, although Boies is trying to get the court to unseal the document.

“We do not believe that our complaint should be sealed,” Boies said in a statement. “However, despite being a news organization, Al Jazeera America has said that the full complaint should be kept from the public file.  We have therefore filed the complaint under seal until the Court can resolve this issue.  We expect that the Court will reject Al Jazeera America’s argument.”

“Our outside counsel is reviewing the complaint,” Al Jazeera America spokeswoman Dawn Bridges said in an e-mail message. “We think it relates to a commercial dispute between former shareholders of Current Media and Al Jazeera America. We may have further comment once they’ve fully reviewed everything.”

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