Matt Lauer was one of the highest compensated journalists on television, but NBC won’t be paying out any of the remaining terms of his contract in the wake of his recent controversial dismissal.
NBC News on Wednesday said it fired the morning-show veteran, citing “inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace” and setting up potential chaos at its venerable — and very lucrative — “Today” A.M. franchise. Lauer had been a fixture on the program for more than two decades, and served as a connection to morning viewers through several generations. He first joined as a news reader in 1994 before becoming the show’s co-anchor in 1998.
He will not be getting any settlement money, according to two people familiar with the matter. NBC News declined to make executives available for comment. The former “Today” anchor was reportedly making anywhere from $20 million to $25 million a year. His most recent deal with NBC was signed in 2016 and was to have kept him on the network through at least 2018.
During a Friday meeting of “NBC Nightly News” staff, an NBC News staffer asked NBC News President Noah Oppenheim about a potential settlement, according to one of the people familiar with the situation. Attendees were told Lauer was fired “for cause,” this person said. NBC is not paying him beyond his last day of work, according to this person,
A representative for Lauer could not be reached for immediate comment. CNN previously reported the news of NBC’s decision.
The decision may surprise some in the business. Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly both left Fox News Channel with settlements worth tens of millions of dollars, and it is not uncommon for news anchors or other TV executives to walk away from a dismissal with some or all of the salary guaranteed in their contracts. At play is a desire to keep some guardrails on their behavior once they are separated from a company, said Mark Spund, who oversees the employment-law practice of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron. A hefty settlement can keep a famous figure from penning a tell-all memoir or making the rounds of talk shows, the attorney said.
NBC News said earlier Friday that it would conduct an internal review of its handling of allegations against Lauer and whether it can “build a culture of greater transparency, openness and respect for each other,” NBC News Chairman Andrew Lack said in a memo to staffers.