Court papers filed on Thursday, August 21st, stated that Al Gore and his business partners had “serious reservations” about Al Jazeera purchasing Current TV from them, but ultimately gave in under the belief that the U.S. would likely be able to influence the Qatar-backed broadcaster more than the other way around.
Last week Current TV’s co-founders, Gore and Joel Hyatt, sued Al Jazeera for withholding money, close to $500 million, from the sale of the channel to Al Jazeera in January 2013.
On Thursday, a legal version of the case’s public complaint was filed in Delaware Court by Gore and Hyatt’s lawyers. The men overcame their reservations about selling to Al Jazeera, according to the complaint, after due diligence that included “consultations with several former senior U.S. government officials” and conversations with Al Jazeera.
According to the complaint, they finally decided that Al Jazeera’s “large-scale entrance into the United States mass marketplace…could help foster deeper mutual understanding between the United States and Arab World.”
The subject of the Oscar-winning 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” Gore has been an activist against global warming; he was criticized for selling Current to the ruling family of oil-rich Qatar, Al Jazeera. Mainly due to the service’s Arabic-language flagship, Al Jazeera was a controversial brand in the U.S., and during the second Bush administration received a reputation for anti-American reporting.
Current was purchased by Al Jazeera to acquire a U.S. cable carrier for a new American channel called Al Jazeera America. It was launched approximately eight months after the acquisition, about a year ago.
Gore and Hyatt allege in the lawsuit that Al Jazeera attempted to “seize” $65 million in escrow funds relating to the sale. According to court papers, the original sale agreement stated that about $85 million of the price at purchase was placed in a third party account and the escrow period ended July 2nd, 2014.
Usually, in agreements relating to a purchase of a business, a percentage of the price at purchase is held back in a third party account, or escrow, in order to cover any costs related to the business like pending legal claims.
Thursday’s filed complaint alleges that Al Jazeera is using the escrow funds to cover expenses related to multiple disputes with other distributors, including Time Warner Cable, Dish Network, DirecTV and AT&T, as well as a separate dispute over a content deal with CBS.
In the complaint on Thursday, many of the dispute details with pay-TV operators were redacted; however the complaint contends that Al Jazeera’s claims on that money are not valid. Also asserted in the complaint is that a series of “financially disastrous” negotiations were made by Al Jazeera executives with pay-TV operators, which have deteriorated the value of the purchased channel.
The redactions in the complaint are challenged by Gore and Hyatt’s lawyers, maintaining that it should be public. Gore’s lawyer, David Boies, said in a statement, “The complaint is about Al Jazeera making excuses for avoiding its financial obligations. When our remaining allegations are unsealed, as we are requesting, the extent of Al Jazeera’s commercial misconduct will become clearer.”
A spokeswoman for Al Jazeera America, Dawn Bridges, said: “The plaintiffs and we have asked for certain portions of the complaint that deal with confidential business practices to be maintained under seal. The filed public version of the complaint reflects both parties’ redactions. The court will rule on whether the redactions should be maintained. Until that time, we will have no further comment on this issue.”