DON IMUS TALK SHOW SETTLEMENT
By PETER LAURIAJuly 27, 2007 -- Don Imus is about to get paid.
The disowned shock jock is close to a settlement that would have former employer CBS buy out his contract as a way to avoid costly and ugly litigation, according to multiple sources close to the situation.
These sources said the two sides have agreed in principle to a buyout and are currently exploring the price tag for such a deal - Imus had $40 million left on his contract when he was booted from CBS, but his lawsuit against the company seeks $120 million in damages.
Despite the racist comments about the Rutgers University women's basketball team that prompted Imus' removal from the airwaves, sources said the settlement speaks to the strength of the radio raconteur's case against CBS.
"I'd rather be Imus in that lawsuit than CBS," said one radio executive.
But while the negotiations over a settlement are all but finalized, these sources said CBS is dragging its feet on making the deal official until it can sign Boomer Esiason to a contract to take over Imus' old morning slot on WFAN.
Imus, however, is known to be hankering to get back on the airwaves, and sources said his camp has reached out to privately owned Buckley Broadcasting, publicly-traded Citadel Communications and Clear Channel Communications about the possibility of a return.
Though CBS boss Les Moonves has repeatedly stated that Imus won't be returning to the company, one source said that door hasn't been shut entirely. While a settlement is most likely, CBS is trying to have it both ways with the source saying the company is "looking to retain an option to do something with Imus over the next few months so they can match any other offers he might get."
The prospect of an Imus comeback received a major boost last week when Al Sharpton, who led the campaign against Imus in the aftermath of his comments, said he wouldn't object to his return to radio.
A spokesman for CBS declined to comment for this story. Calls to Martin Garbus, the attorney representing Imus in his lawsuit, were not returned.
Part of the reason for CBS and Garbus' shyness, according to sources, is that neither side wants news of the settlement to get out in fear of blunting leverage in other negotiations. On the CBS side, word of a deal with Imus that removes the possibility of a return would give Esiason leverage in his contract talks with the company.
After all, WFAN has essentially been without a morning show for nearly five months and one source said the station is desperate to get someone in there permanently to reestablish its presence.
From Imus' perspective, word of a settlement would remove what little leverage he might have in job negotiations with other broadcasters.