Megyn Kelly is free to take jobs at other news outlets upon leaving NBC News, according to a person familiar with the matter, a revelation that suggests exit talks between the star anchor and the NBCUniversal-owned division are moving toward a close.
Kelly is not expected to be bound by any non-compete restrictions, and could take a job at other news operations, this person said. NBCU and Kelly have been engaged in separation discussions for weeks, ever since NBC News canceled her morning program, “Megyn Kelly Today,” in the wake of on-screen remarks she made about wearing blackface makeup for Halloween.
A spokesman for Kelly declined to comment. NBCUniversal declined to make executives available for comment.
People familiar with the talks suggested that many issues between the two parties – money; non-disparagement; and other issues – are largely resolved. They acknowledged, however, that attorneys continue to wrangle over legal language and minor disparities.
“When you have a high-profile break-up with an on-air talent, there are things that will hold it up,” said James Sammataro, head of the media and entertainment practice at the Stroock law firm. Confidentiality agreements could be one of those elements, he suggested, along with how they are structured; which topics they apply to; and their broader scope. In the normal course of such discussions, he said, media companies tend to “try to put them to bed as soon as possible to avoid rumors.”
Kelly is expected to walk away with $30 million – the value of the remaining part of her contact – according to people familiar with the proceedings.
Scrutiny may now turn to where she might work next. NBC News and MSNBC are no longer options, and people familiar with CNN, ABC News and CBS News say executives either don’t have immediate interest or are not immediately able to find a spot that might be right for Kelly.
Speculation has long held that a return of Kelly to Fox News might spark conversation, but Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, recently threw cold water on the notion. “I’m very happy with our current lineup on Fox News and we won’t be making any changes there,” he said in remarks made at a recent conference. When asked if he thought she would be able to find a new TV home given the recent outcry around her, he responded: “I hope she does because she’s very talented.”