Fox News anchor out in contract drama
NEW YORK -- One of Fox News Channel's rising stars jumped to CNN on Friday after a lightning-fast turn of events that led Fox News to tell her agent that it wasn't interested in keeping her.
Kiran Chetry, who had been a FNC anchor since 2001, was signed Friday by CNN about an hour after Fox News sent a fax to her agent, John Ferriter, releasing her from her contract that was to expire March 6.
Chetry had had discussions with other networks but seemed closer to reupping with Fox News, sources said. But the negotiations, which lasted more than a month, ran aground late Thursday over a clause that Chetry wanted to include in the contract regarding the future of "Fox & Friends," the channel's morning show.
The source of the dispute seems a matter of interpretation, with Fox News saying that it would have led to them agreeing to fire the current co-host, Gretchen Carlson, and another source saying that it merely asked for written clarification of whether Chetry would become a "Fox & Friends" co-host and when. If that didn't happen by a certain date, then Chetry would have a window to exit her new contract.
"You and your client's unprofessional demand that we include a clause in her new agreement would have been detrimental to other Fox News talent (and) is simply not the way we conduct business," Fox News vp legal and business affairs Dianne Brandi wrote.
Fox News confirmed the authenticity of the memo, which first appeared on the TV Newser Web site. Ferriter, who represents Larry King and Ryan Seacrest, among others, declined comment. Chetry wasn't available for an interview Friday.
Enter CNN, whose president, Jon Klein, had met with Chetry on Feb. 7 during Chetry's window to negotiate with other networks. (Fox News still had the ability to match any offer she got until they renounced it in Brandi's letter.) Chetry had met with the previous administration at CNN and "there was a lot of goodwill toward her already," Klein said in an interview Friday. Klein and others at CNN had followed her career since then but thought it was likely she would stay at Fox News Channel.
"I was bowled over by her charm and her intelligence and her character," Klein said. "She was a really good person. None of this TV stuff had gone to her head. I felt she would be a good person to have in the mix, but I also thought there's no chance of her becoming available unless extraordinary circumstances intervened."
Those "extraordinary circumstances" came into play shortly before 6 p.m. EST Thursday when Klein talked to Ferriter and learned what had just happened.
"I couldn't believe that this was dropping into my lap," Klein said. He spoke to CNN Worldwide president Jim Walton and another CNN exec, Joel Cheatwood, and they agreed to pursue Chetry. The deal was done with a verbal agreement less than an hour later between Walton, Klein and Ferriter, a process that Klein a day later marveled about.
"I've never been involved in anything like this in 30 years in this business," Klein said of the one-hour negotiation. He said that many talent negotiations, particularly ones with salary-matching clauses, can take more than a year to complete.
Klein made the call to have Chetry immediately join CNN, having her sub for the vacationing Soledad O'Brien on "American Morning" on Friday. And she turned around later that day and anchored "Anderson Cooper 360�" with Cooper was on assignment. She continued to do that Monday and will do so until Wednesday.
"She's going to be a terrific fit here. She really wants to cover the news," Klein said. "That helps a lot. She had a burn to work at CNN, she said so, and you could tell it was true."
Klein declined comment about the turn of events on Fox, saying that the story for him was that CNN was getting a talented anchor. "The fact that it probably annoyed them is just icing on the cake," Klein said.
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