Bill O’Reilly will be paid tens of millions of dollars on his way out of Fox News, two well-placed sources told CNNMoney.
“It is a staggering amount,” said a source personally involved in the exit maneuverings.
After this story was originally published Thursday morning, a third source said the payout totals $25 million.
21st Century Fox and O’Reilly’s representatives will not acknowledge the existence of a payout. A confidentiality agreement limits what the two sides can say.
But the sources confirmed that O’Reilly does have a parachute, partly because O’Reilly signed a new contract right before being ousted.
The two original sources, who spoke independently of one another, said the new contract was worth about $25 million per year.
(Previous news reports have pegged O’Reilly’s past contract at $18 to $20 million a year.)
O’Reilly commanded a higher sum for obvious reasons: he dominated the ratings and helped Fox News deliver record profits for its parent company.
The two sources also said the contract extended through the next presidential election, meaning it was set to expire either at the end of 2020 or sometime in 2021.
However, O’Reilly will not be paid the entire amount he was owed. That’s because Fox incorporated language in the new contract that gave the network some “outs.”
Fox is only on the hook for one years’ salary, according to one of the sources. That’s why the payout totals $25 million.
Roger Ailes, on the other hand, was paid the entire remainder of his contract when he resigned under pressure last summer. Ailes, the founding CEO of Fox News, was accused of harassment by Fox employees.
Ailes was paid more than $40 million on the way out. He recently bought a $36 million oceanfront home in Florida.
As for O’Reilly, the sources declined to say exactly how much money he will receive. But regulatory filings may drop some hints in the coming months.
The Washington Post reported that the new deal was signed in March — just weeks before The New York Times’ investigation into O’Reilly was published on April 1.
The Murdochs knew that the Times story was in the works, and that’s why “outs” were added to the contract. But the Murdochs underestimated just how severe the fallout would be, one of the sources said.
Dozens of advertisers abandoned the “O’Reilly Factor” and other women came forward with new accusations of harassment.
When Ailes was sued, Fox asked the law firm Paul, Weiss to conduct an internal investigation. Precisely two weeks later, Ailes resigned.
This month, the timeline repeated itself. When O’Reilly accuser Wendy Walsh and her attorney Lisa Bloom called Fox’s hotline on April 5, the Murdochs put Paul, Weiss on the case. The results of the internal probe were not shared publicly on Wednesday, but it apparently influenced the Murdochs’ decision. Exactly two weeks later, O’Reilly was dismissed.
At an event in New York on Wednesday night, James Murdoch, the company’s CEO, was asked by a New York Times reporter about the abrupt exit.
Murdoch said “we did a thorough investigation, a thorough review, and we reached a conclusion. Everything that we said in our statement is all you need to know.”
O’Reilly issued a statement that reaffirmed his innocence, saying “it is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today.”