Gore Al Jazeera Lawsuit 'Mostly' Made Public
(CN) - Former Vice President Al Gore's $65 million lawsuit against Al Jazeera went public Thursday - sort of -when redacted copies of the case became available from the Chancery Court in Wilmington, Del.
Gore and co-plaintiff Joel Hyatt, who was the CEO of Current Media when Al Jazeera inked a $500 million purchase Current TV in January 2013, filed their lawsuit on Friday, claiming the case was sealed at the satellite news provider's request.
But exactly why the case was sealed - and why copies of the complaint are heavily redacted today - remains a mystery. Neither Al Jazeera nor its attorneys responded for requests for comment on Thursday. Gore's legal team filed an objection [AEND]to the redaction of the complaint on Wednesday.
In the complaint Gore and Hyatt accuse Al Jazeera of raiding an escrow account established at the time of the sale in order to buy favor with distributors who did not want to carry the Qatar-based network.
"Prior to Defendant's acquisition of Current Media, AJE reached a miniscule number of U.S. homes (and even fewer actual viewers) through its patchwork distribution approach," the complaint says is a lengthy dissertation of Al Jazeera's history in the United States. "Looking for a new entrée into the American television market after the disastrous failure of AJE in the United States, Defendant saw an opportunity to immediately increase its American reach by quantum leaps to over 50 million U.S. subscriber households by purchasing Current Media." (51)
Gore and Hyatt claim they initially harbored "serious reservations" about selling their channel to Al Jazeera, but decided to move ahead with a deal after "consultations with several former senior U.S. government officials" and in the belief that, "that AJ's large-scale entrance into the United States mass media marketplace would likely result in a significant improvement of its journalism, not just in the United States, but across its global properties in the Middle East and elsewhere ..." (54)
"In short, Plaintiffs believed that AJ's presence in the United States would likely result in more influence by the United States on AJ as opposed to more influence by AJ on American viewers," they continue. (54)
The brass bands and confetti, however, appear to lose their luster in June 2014, when, the plaintiffs say, Al Jazeera presented Hyatt with five "claim certificates" claiming entitlement to the money held in the escrow account.
According to Gore and Hyatt, when Al Jazeera presented Hyatt with the certificates, it "claimed (without any basis or support) to have incurred [redacted] in expenses" related to the termination of the network's contract with Time Warner Cable, "half of which Plaintiffs were now purportedly on the hook for, despite the fact it was a worthless agreement that generated no revenues of Defendant or TWC and merely gave TWC an eight-year unilateral right to carry AJE for free - a right that TWC never actually exercised." (92)
"These purported expenses, which Defendant failed to itemize in its Claim Certificate, are far greater than the minimal legal expenses Defendant cited in inducing Plaintiffs to agree to pay for half of the costs of terminating the AJE-TWC agreement," Gore and Hyatt say. (92)
"Moreover, Defendant never even launched AJE on Comcast, DirecTV, AT&T or any of Current TV's other distributors during the interim period between the sale of Current Media and the launch of AJAM. Instead, Defendant kept Current TV's programming on the air until AJAM launched in August 2013," they continue, (93) adding, "Terminating the AJE-TWC Agreement was therefore totally unnecessary." (94)
Gore and Hyatt charge, "Defendant's representations to Plaintiffs that it would run AJE programming under the former Current TV distribution agreements, that failing to terminate the AJE-TWC Agreement would put its revenue stream from the Current TV distribution agreements at risk and that cancelling the AJE-TWC Agreement would entail only minor legal expenses therefore constituted a fraudulent ruse to raid money from the Escrow balance." (95)
In sum, Gore and Hyatt contend that neither they nor Current Media's shareholders are required to indemnify Al Jazeera for the expenses it says it incurred in terminating the Time Warner Cable deal.
They are also asking the court to declare they are not on the hook for expenses tied to disputes Al Jazeera subsequently had with CBS, the Dish Network, DirecTV and AT&T.
According to Gore and Hyatt, Al Jazeera failed to provide them with timely notice of these disputes, and failed to permit Hyatt to control the defense of them, as required under the sale agreement.
Finally, they are asking the court to declare they are not required to indemnify Al Jazeera for any damages and expenses that it may incur in the future, as the deadline for such indemnification claims ended on July 2, 2014.
"The complaint is about Al Jazeera making excuses for avoiding its financial obligations, said Gore and Hyatt's attorney, David Boies, of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP in Washington, D.C. "When our remaining allegations are unsealed, as we are requesting, the extent of Al Jazeera's commercial misconduct will become clearer."