Publicly, Mr. Bolling has since suggested that he wanted to spend more time with his family (don’t they all?). But CNBC executives suspected otherwise, thanks in part to an e-mail in which Mr. Bolling’s lawyer chewed over the enforceability of a non-compete clause in the pundit’s contract. Mr. Bolling, according to court documents, had intended to forward the message to Kevin Magee, a senior executive at the Fox Business Network, but instead directed it to CNBC honcho Kevin Goldman.
In July, Mr. Bolling and his lawyers sent CNBC a letter arguing that he should be released from his contract, freeing him to sign on with a competitor. In an affidavit, the multimillionaire argued that CNBC never treated him as an irreplaceable asset: “I was not highly compensated, was not provided with a wardrobe, and received no benefits or even a car service.”
CNBC, unsurprisingly, saw things differently. Billable hours ensued.
“Eric Bolling signed a contract,” CNBC’s Goldman told NYTV. “And we expect him to abide by his contractual obligations.”
You can’t blame CNBC for taking a hard line. In recent months, rumors have swirled around the cable news world about efforts by News Corp. execs to poach CNBC talent. Still, Mr. Bolling’s attorney, Steven Mintz, told us he was amazed at the lengths CNBC was going to try to keep “a talking yak-yak” from continuing his television career elsewhere. “We think they are using nuclear weapons when maybe a small hand grenade would be appropriate,” said Mr. Mintz. (Of course, the media high road is littered with the roadkill of news organizations that thought they could defend themselves against Rupert Murdoch using small-caliber weapons.)
As for Fox, it’s not exactly hiding its intentions. Last month, a top executive filed an affidavit with the court stating, “If Mr. Bolling were free to work for the Fox Business Network, we would be very interested in hiring him.”
ON MONDAY, CBS MADE IT OFFICIAL: As of next Monday, Shelley Ross will be taking over the reigns of The Early Show as senior executive producer.
Early has long been mired in third place, and Ms. Ross, who made her name in part by helping take ABC’s Good Morning America from last to almost first, appears to have been given the authority to make sweeping changes. But a 1998 memo, written by Ms. Ross while she was at ABC, suggests that she may not have driven the key personnel decision at the heart of GMA’s revival—the choice of Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer as the show’s co-anchors.
“An easy choice for anchor is Jack Ford who is very smart and very watchable,” Ross wrote. “I have liked watching him since Court TV and through the OJ trial—especially on Larry King with Cynthia McFadden. I think he can play well off a variety of co-hosts.”
She went on: “The female anchor choice is much tougher … I understand Connie Chung is under discussion for an interim solution. She is a pleasure to work with and watch on air … I still believe the best candidate is Elizabeth Vargas.” CBS executives are mum about what her arrival might mean for the show’s current anchor team, but NYTV is guessing that Jack Ford isn’t in the running.