Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore is suring Al Jazeera, claiming the satellite news provider owned by the Qatari royal family owes him and a partner $65 million from a deal to buy his network, Current TV, for $500 million.
Mr. Gore, 66, and Joel Hyatt, another former Current TV owner, accused Al Jazeera American Holdings of fraud and breach of contract. They are seeking undisclosed damages in a mostly sealed complaint filed today in Chancery Court in Wilmington, Delaware. The men allege that Al Jazeera illegally tried to seize $65 million in escrow funds.
"Al Jazeera America wants to give itself a discount on the purchase price that was agreed to nearly two years ago," David Boies, a lawyer for Mr. Gore, said in a statement. "We are asking the court to order Al Jazeera America to stop wrongfully withholding the escrow funds that belong to Current's former shareholders."
Buying Mr. Gore's channel and rebranding it gave Al Jazeera America access to about 43 million U.S. homes. Mr. Gore was to make an estimated $100 million on the sale of the network, which he helped to start in 2004. After debt, he was to gross an estimated $70 million for his 20% stake, people familiar with the transaction said.
Dawn Bridges, a spokeswoman for Al Jazeera, said today that the network's lawyers are reviewing the lawsuit.
Al Jazeera's Challenges
Al Jazeera has faced challenges gaining an audience in the U.S., partly because Americans may remember it as the forum for Osama bin Laden's video messages after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Lackluster ratings and a perpetuating negative perception have kept advertisers away. The network, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, has few national advertisers, and media buyers say clients aren't optimistic about the channel's future.
Al Jazeera hired big-name personalities such as former CNN anchors Soledad O'Brien and Ali Velshi to help build its U.S. brand.
-- Bloomberg News with contributions from Jeanine Poggi