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Al Gore, Current TV and Rupert Murdoch’s $200 Million ‘Gift’

Former Vice President and Current TV co-founder Al Gore gets a pair of profiles today. First Bloomberg takes a shot at estimating his net worth, and comes up with a number around $200 million. The company estimates that he made around $70 million from the Current TV sale to Al Jazeera.

New York magazine talks to Gore, who discusses buying and selling Current, and his surprising relationship with news Crop. CEO Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch had no interest in Gore’s plan to upend the media paradigm. But Gore’s timing was excellent. “Rupert is a smart guy,” Gore tells me. “This was a great opportunity for him to demonstrate that he was not interested in consolidating his control of DirecTV just to launch an ideological jihad.” As proof, “he could say, ‘Hey, I put Al Gore’s channel on.’ That was something that would work for him. It would certainly work for me.”

“Wait a second, Al,” Murdoch said. “You guys are here because you want to know if you buy NWI whether I’ll kick you off. I can assure you we are not going to do that.”

On the spot, Murdoch agreed to a ten-year extension. Over ten years, it amounted to a “gift” of about $200 million, as DirecTV’s execs later said.

On selling to Al Jazeera:

An investment banker suggested approaching Al-Jazeera, the Arab news network funded by Qatar. Hyatt initially dismissed the company out of hand, as did Gore—they associated it with Islamic propaganda. But Al-Jazeera offered several advantages, not least of which was that the ambitious network had bottomless funds. “At Al-Jazeera, making money isn’t what we worry about,” one of Current’s executives was told.

For Al-Jazeera, Current offered a rare opportunity. The organization was already the world’s largest news-gathering operation, and one of a very few that were expanding, but it had been unable to gain a foothold in the U.S. TV market, crucial for a network with global ambitions.

Hyatt decided to rethink his first reaction. He visited Al-Jazeera’s impressive headquarters in Doha. “I was there three seconds, and I saw what you can do if you have the resources,” which Current would never have. “It was an obvious decision to sell.” The financial incentives were high: The Al-Jazeera deal was worth $784 million, according to Privco, a firm that analyzes private companies.

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