Al Jazeera America ("Al Jazeera") rejects the claims in a complaint filed by prior owners of Current TV, led by former Vice President Albert Gore, Jr. and Joel Hyatt. The lawsuit and statement simultaneously issued by Al Gore's celebrity trial lawyer were designed to grab headlines with misleading accusations like "fraud" and "price discount." The truth is that this is an ordinary commercial dispute, of the type that courts decide all the time. Al Jazeera provides this press release to correct the record.
The Gore-Hyatt group sold Current TV to Al Jazeera in January 2013, and received hundreds of millions of dollars for their channel. In their purchase agreement with Al Jazeera, they promised that Current TV was not in breach of any of its significant contracts. They also promised to indemnify Al Jazeera if, after the sale, Al Jazeera was sued for breach of any of these contracts while Gore and Hyatt ran the channel. To further protect Al Jazeera's right to indemnification, the sellers agreed to set aside money in an escrow fund to be held and managed by an escrow agent (and not by Al Jazeera, as implied in the Gore-Hyatt lawyer's statement). This is a standard business practice. If Al Jazeera received claims of contract breach from third parties, it was to notify the escrow agent, who would keep money in the escrow account to cover that amount. If Al Jazeera became liable to pay damages or settle its contract dispute with a third party, it would receive reimbursement for these amounts, and its attorney's fees and costs, from the escrow fund. Any unused escrow money was to be paid to the sellers.
Gore and Hyatt's assurances of contract compliance were inaccurate. Third parties contend that Current TV breached its contracts while Gore and Hyatt ran the channel. Al Jazeera has accordingly demanded indemnification from the sellers for these claims and filed timely notices of claims against the escrow fund with the escrow agent.
Rather than indemnifying Al Jazeera as they were required to do, Gore and Hyatt have resorted to a preemptive lawsuit and lawyer-driven public relations maneuvers. Some of their public statements, such as suggesting that Al Jazeera has committed "fraud" or is wrongfully holding the escrow funds, are blatantly false and potentially misleading as to the true nature of this commercial dispute. Al Jazeera is not seeking a "discount" from the hundreds of millions of dollars it has already paid to the Gore-Hyatt group. The money in the escrow fund is intended to indemnify Al Jazeera, and Al Jazeera's indemnification claims are more than the amount held in escrow. The sellers themselves agreed that if Al Jazeera's right to indemnification exceeded the escrow fund, the sellers would not receive anything from it.
According to Andrew L. Deutsch, a partner of DLA Piper LLP (US), which represents Al Jazeera, "In the next few weeks, Al Jazeera will respond to the complaint of Al Gore and Joel Hyatt. The response will provide a clear explanation of Al Jazeera's position and its right to indemnification from escrow funds. Al Jazeera welcomes the opportunity to resolve this commercial dispute before an impartial tribunal."
About Al Jazeera America:
Al Jazeera America is the new U.S. news channel that provides both domestic and international news for American audiences. Al Jazeera America's reporting has received accolades from journalists and critics around the country. Al Jazeera America programs have received or been nominated for the Emmy Award, the Peabody Award, the RFK Award, and many other awards in journalism and broadcasting.
It is headquartered in New York City with bureaus in 12 cities across the United States and access to more than 70 Al Jazeera Media Network bureaus around the world. Visit Al Jazeera America online at www.aljazeera.com for the latest updates. You can also like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aljazeeramerica. Follow us on Twitter @AJAM www.twitter.com/ajam and join the conversation using #AlJazeeraAmerica.