Conan O’Brien’s payout may be less than it appears


Rumors are running rampant that the settlement to free Conan O’Brien from his “Tonight Show” will have NBC paying O’Brien $30 million or more. But that’s before some legal details may kick in, as explained by attorney Jonathan Handel.

The entertainment attorney sent RBR-TVBR a link to his latest posting on his Digital Media Law Blog (and on the Huffington Post as well) explaining that the $30-40 million settlement is likely to be considerably less, assuming O’Brien finds new employment.

First off, the settlement is likely to have a “mitigation” clause which requires the former employee, O’Brien, to seek new employment or have the NBC payments cut off. That’s probably not going to be a big factor, since O’Brien would not want to have his show business value decline by simply disappearing for two and a half years.

But then, assuming he does find a new job – say, the rumored new show on Fox – Handel says the NBC settlement contract is likely to include an “offset” provision that would reduce the termination payment because of the new income that O’Brien would receive from Fox.

Of course, Handel hasn’t seen the actual legal documents any more than the rest of us have, but he provides an interesting perspective on how the big bucks can be shrunk by good lawyering on the payout side. Click here to read his blog post.

RBR-TVBR observation: Much as we all like to make fun of lawyers – heck, even lawyers like to tell lawyer jokes – there are times when the legal beagles really earn their big paychecks. But then, you have to wonder about the current state of the relationship between Conan O’Brien and his lawyer who reportedly neglected to include a guarantee of a specific timeslot in his contract for the “Tonight Show.”