Al Gore Sued Over Sale Of Current TV To Al Jazeera

A media consultant in California is suing former Vice President Al Gore and others over the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera:

Current TV’s $500 million sale to Al Jazeera has prompted a lawsuit that claims co-founder Al Gore originally was opposed to the deal but had a “change of heart” on selling his cable network to oil-rich Qataris.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in San Francisco Superior Court by John Terenzio, who presents himself as a highly regarded media consultant, executive and TV producer who conceived the idea for the distribution of an American version of Al Jazeera.

Now, Terenzio claims that he has been cut out of the lucrative deal.

Terenzio, who says in the suit he created China Central Television and reprogrammed it for American audiences, alleges that in late 2011, he presented a proposal for Al Jazeera titled “Path to U.S. Distribution” by Richard Nanula, a principal in Colony Capital. The purpose of the presentation was to explore potential financing and joint venture partners for the project.

Terenzio says that in June, he identified Current TV as a potential acquisition target for Al Jazeera given its vast distribution network and well-publicized financial woes.

At Terenzio’s direction, Nanula is said to have approached Richard Blum, a member of Current’s board of directors (and the husband of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein), who was interested because “he and other Current investors were concerned about the prospect of losing their shirts in the financially troubled Current.”

According to the lawsuit, Blum and other Current TV Board Members were supportive of the deal largely because of the precarious financial condition of the network, but things appeared to turn south when they took the proposal to the former Vice-President:

What happened next likely will generate much conversation given that Gore has made the media rounds defending the sale. According to the lawsuit, “Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Gore was adamant in his rejection of the proposal to sell his liberal, environmentally friendly network to the oil-rich Quataris who owned Al Jazeera. Apparently, Gore had a change of heart.”

Terenzio said that without his knowledge or approval, and “notwithstanding Gore’s original objection,” Current was sold to Al Jazeera on Jan. 2.

Indeed, in a series of media appearances to promote his book latest book, The Future, Gore has defended Al Jazeera’s editorial independence from its patron, the royal family of Qatar, which has derived vast wealth from Middle Eastern oil. During a Jan. 29 interview with Matt Lauer on NBC’s Today, Gore conceded that he understood the criticism but added: “I disagree with it. I think Al Jazeera has, obviously, long since established itself as a really distinguished and effective newsgathering organization. And by the way, its climate coverage has been far more extensive and high-quality.”

Lauer pointed to a passage in Gore’s book that criticizes television newscasts for taking advertising money from oil companies. “Well, I get the criticism,” Gore responded. “I just disagree with it, because this network has established itself. It’s objective, it’s won major awards in countries around the world, and its climate coverage, as I said a moment ago, has been outstanding and extensive.”

The plaintiff in the lawsuit says he has confirmed that the Current sale was “motivated by Terenzio’s presentation and that the transaction was patterned on the structure proposed to Blum.”

Terenzio is suing for breach of implied agreement, unjust enrichment and quantum meruit(“what one has earned”). He’s seeking $5 million for each cause of action.

Judging the claims on their face, Terenizo does seem to have at least laid out a prima facie case for the causes of action he is pursuing. If the deal he presented to Blum and the others was essentially identical to the deal that was entered into at the start of this year, then he arguably is entitled to some sort of compensation. Of course, as always, the devil is in the details and this case is likely to be heavily litigated and, given the fact that the Defendant’s are not citizens of California, may well be removed to Federal Court. In any case, nothing about this suit would seem to be a bar to the acquisition itself.

Here’s the lawsuit [PDF].

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Media, Quick Takes
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    These two grafs from that story literally made me laugh out loud:

    What happened next likely will generate much conversation given that Gore has made the media rounds defending the sale. According to the lawsuit, “Plaintiffs are informed and believe that Gore was adamant in his rejection of the proposal to sell his liberal, environmentally friendly network to the oil-rich Quataris who owned Al Jazeera. Apparently, Gore had a change of heart.”

    ***
    [Matt] Lauer pointed to a passage in Gore’s book that criticizes television newscasts for taking advertising money from oil companies. “Well, I get the criticism,” Gore responded. “I just disagree with it, because this network has established itself. It’s objective, it’s won major awards in countries around the world, and its climate coverage, as I said a moment ago, has been outstanding and extensive.”

    In any case, as many layers of irony that are contained in this litigation, nothing tops Michael Moore’s lawsuit against the Weinsteins and others to recover unpaid profits from that 9.11 agitprop film that Moore made during the apex of BDS. The multi-millionaire socialist suing to recover lost profits from other multi-millionaire socialists simply was too rich even for words.

    But if Gore were to respond to this lawsuit by giving a press conference in which he called for major tort and lawsuit reforms, well, shizzle, that could tip the scales in favor of this one. So we’ll have to see.

  2. Anon says:

    I don’t understand enough about the legalities here to understand why Terenzio has any claim at all. Is Terenzio claiming some kind of intellectual property here for a business model?

  3. C. Clavin says:

    “…as many layers of irony that are contained in this…”

    Seriously?
    Do you have a macro programed into your PC that spits that stupid line out no matter the topic?
    The only thing that outshines you limited intellect is your lack of imagination.

  4. J-Dub says:

    “sounds like a great idea. And what exactly do we need you for?”

    Reminds me of the movie Fargo. That didn’t end well either.

  5. @Anon:

    I don’t understand enough about the legalities here to understand why Terenzio has any claim at all.

    It’s kind of like hiring a realtor to find someone to buy your house and then after the bring an interested buyer to you, negotiating the sale with them directly so that you can stiff the realtor out of their comission. The problem is that Terenzio doesn’t appear to have a signed agreement and is only claiming an implied agreement, which is going to be much harder to prove in court.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    If those are the claims, we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. The latter two are the “kitchen sink” claims always thrown in; the first will be responded to by the judge with “what the hell do you think you are doing trying to file this in my court?” Terenzio’s strategy is most likely to embarrass Al Gore enough that A.G. gives him money to go away.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: You’re likely right,. Otherwise, I’m having trouble seeing what liability attached to changing your mind.

  8. wr says:

    Hey, I thought it would be a good idea if Warners sold off their magazine division. So now that they’re doing it, I want at least ten percent of the sale price… or I’m suing!

  9. al-Ameda says:

    People negotiating in bad faith over a lucrative sale of media rights? No way!

    I’m rooting for Al Gore to be slow-chased down an LA freeway in a white Range Rover.

  10. CB says:

    @J-Dub:

    “We’re not a bank, Jerry”