Al Jazeera America (AJA) dismissed the claims of Current TV founders Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, who sued the network last week for refusing to turn over any of the estimated $65 million that was being held in an escrow account that was created when Al Jazeera agreed to buy Current TV last year.
In a statement, Al Jazeera America said that the escrow account was a “standard business practice” to cover any claims of breach of contract while Gore and Hyatt ran Current TV, and took issue with how the filing of the lawsuit was announced:
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,’ said the statement. The truth is that this is an ordinary commercial dispute, of the type that courts decide all the time.
Gore accused AJA of withholding the funds to extract a price discount on the purchase, but AJA said that third parties have contended that Current TV breached its contracts while Gore and Hyatt ran the network. AJA said that it had demanded indemnification from the sellers for past and future claims against Current TV.
More than the money, Al Jazeera is certainly feeling buyer’s remorse after overpaying for a third-rate network that Gore and Hyatt were struggling to make viable.
Since re-launching the network, Al Jazeera has spent millions of dollars to build U.S. news bureaus and hire staff, only to see ratings drop even further from the minuscule numbers Current TV attracted, resulting in layoffs that have hurt staff morale.