By now you may have heard that Al Jazeera, the pan-Arabic cable news channel, has purchased Current TV, the little-watched cable news channel founded by former Vice President Al Gore that features ex-Democratic governors like Eliot Spitzer and Jennifer Granholm as evening news anchors. According to a New York Times report:
Al Jazeera did not disclose the purchase price, but people with direct knowledge of the deal pegged it at around $500 million, indicating a $100 million payout for Mr. Gore, who owned 20 percent of Current. Mr. Gore and his partners were eager to complete the deal by Dec. 31, lest it be subject to higher tax rates that took effect on Jan. 1, according to several people who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. But the deal was not signed until Wednesday.
Al Jazeera is primarily funded by the government of Qatar, a major oil-producing country and member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). In other words, Al Gore — author of Earth In The Balance, producer of An Inconvenient Truth and 2007 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his environmental activism — has literally sold out to Big Foreign Oil to the tune of $100 million.
Not only that but he scrambled to avoid paying President Obama’s higher taxes on the deal. I guess Obama’s war on the “one percent” must look different when you are the one percent, huh Al?
From the official Current TV memo outlining the deal by Current TV CEO Joel Hyatt:
Al and I are thrilled and proud to announce that a few moments ago Current was acquired by Al Jazeera, the award winning international news organization.
As you may know, Al Jazeera is funded by the government of Qatar, which is the United States’ closest ally in the Gulf Region, and is where the United States bases its Middle East Air Force operations. I have had first-hand knowledge of Qatar’s policies as a result of my tenure on the Board of The Brookings Institution. The Saban Center for Middle East Policy is a joint venture of The Brookings Institution and Qatar, and it has offices in Washington, DC and Doha, Qatar. Its purpose is to propose practical public policies that can contribute to peace in the Middle East, and its founding Director is my friend, Martin Indyk, the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
While considering this decision, I spent a week in Doha, Qatar, where Al Jazeera is headquartered, and I am pleased to tell you that I could not have been more impressed with their operation.
Well, $500 million *is* very impressive…
UPDATE: Ryan Ellis, tax policy director for Americans for Tax reforms, emails to explain how much tax Gore was trying to avoid paying:
Assuming this was a capital gain (and it almost certainly was), and ignoring state income taxes: He would have paid a 15 percent capital gains rate in 2012 for a tax bill of $15 million. Since the deal took place in 2013, he would pay a capital gains rate of 23.8 percent for a tax bill of $23.8 million.
Sucks to be him.
So Gore was attempting to avoid paying $8.8 million in taxes.