As the drama surrounding Jeff Zucker, Allison Gollust, and CNN consumed the media industry for a third straight week, I found myself marveling at the paparazzi-like obsession with the couple’s every move. Here, courtesy of The Daily Mail, was Zucker “in a black puffer jacket and jeans” picking up pizza in midtown Manhattan. And here, also from the Mail, was Gollust “in black Louboutin stiletto heels” returning to her Upper East Side apartment. Thanks to The Ankler, there was Zucker breakfasting with his old friend Dick Ebersol at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, “casually dressed in jeans, sneakers and a grey pullover.”
Such tabloid obsessions are usually reserved for A-list actors, Manhattan socialites and the British monarchy, or for the perpetrators of some nefarious scandal or crime, not the recently ousted executives of a cable news network. The photos made it appear like Zucker and Gollust were on the lam, or at least on the verge of getting dragged into court.
In actuality, it is Zucker and Gollust who will decide whether or not they want to take the matter of their forced resignations to court, or at least to arbitration. Sources close to the couple tell me they were denied severance by AT&T and that they are currently in talks with lawyers to assess their options for wrestling a payout from the telecom giant. Zucker’s total annual compensation package at CNN was in the ballpark of $10 million, Gollust’s around $2 million, said sources familiar with those figures. They both feel like they are entitled to some multiple of that, sources close to them said, but they haven’t yet decided whether they have the appetite for a protracted legal battle, and the effect that might have on their reputations and their next professional moves. (My partner Matt Belloni noted last night that Zucker is represented by the fearsome Glaser Weil law firm.)