The legal struggle between Don Imus and CBS Radio is nearing a settlement that would pre-empt the dismissed DJ’s threatened $120 million breach of contract lawsuit, a person familiar with the case said Friday.
Neither Imus’ attorney nor CBS Radio would comment on any aspect of the case, but the person said the two sides were in the process of reaching an agreement. The person, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, is not authorized to speak publicly about the dispute.
It was unclear whether a deal would return Imus to the airwaves, where he worked for 40 years before his April firing after directing a sexist, racial insult at the Rutgers University women’s basketball team.
The possible settlement, first reported Friday in the New York Post, was the latest indication that the Hall of Fame broadcaster’s dramatic broadcasting demise could be reversed. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who spearheaded the “Fire Imus” movement, said last week that he would not oppose the 67-year-old DJ’s return to radio.
And Imus confidante Bo Dietl, a frequent guest on the radio show, had hinted this month that his friend might be back on the air in the fall. “I really don’t know what’s going on now,” Dietl said Friday.
Just before his dismissal, Imus signed a five-year, $40 million CBS contract. First Amendment lawyer Martin Garbus said in May that Imus planned to sue CBS for $120 million in unpaid salary and damages, although the suit was never filed.
CBS said Imus was terminated for cause, while Garbus insisted that the veteran broadcaster’s contract included a clause specifying that his “irreverent” and “controversial” program was “consistent with company rules and policy.”
One industry analyst said he doubted that CBS would bring Imus back if a settlement were reached.
“It’s a little like one of those breakups where a husband and wife say things on the way out the door that can’t be taken back,” said Tom Taylor of Radio-Info.com, a soundboard for news and information about the radio industry. “I think CBS made some of those no-turning-back comments.”
WFAN-AM, at one time the flagship station for Imus’ nationally syndicated program, has yet to find a permanent replacement for him. A variety of fill-in hosts, including ex-NFL star Boomer Esiason and tennis great John McEnroe, have stepped in.