On Wednesday, 21st Century Fox officially fired longtime Fox News primetime star Bill O’Reilly after repeated allegations of sexually harassing women.
Their decision to terminate O’Reilly was hardly an act of contrition, but rather an act of self-preservation: advertisers were fleeing the network at an alarming rate, and Fox News was forced to run truncated shows during their evening primetime, traditionally the most lucrative timeslot on a network’s daily schedule.
But regaining that lost revenue is going to cost them a pretty penny. CNN’s Brian Stelter reported on Thursday morning that the network was preparing to give O’Reilly a hefty buyout from his contract that could stretch into the “tens of millions.”
The company hasn’t officially acknowledged that O’Reilly will receive any kind of golden parachute, but sources within Fox News told CNN that O’Reilly is expected to receive a big chunk of the multi-year contract he signed just last month. According to the report, O’Reilly was set to earn $25 million per year through the next presidential election.
The timing of his new contract is particularly interesting given his subsequent firing from the network. As The Wall Street Journal—which is owned by the same Murdochs that own 21st Century Fox—reported, O’Reilly signed a new contract in late March despite his ongoing sexual harassment scandal and the fact that his existing contract didn’t expire until the end of the year. According to CNN, the contract negotiations were taking place even though the company knew that the New York Times was readying an explosive story documenting five new allegations of sexual harassment and the $13 million settlement paid out by O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox.
Though his new contract was built with several “outs” in case the sexual harassment allegations led to his firing, Stelter reported that the Murdochs were caught off guard by the swift backlash by advertisers.
For his part, O’Reilly continues to deny the allegations despite more women coming forward with their own stories about his vile behavior.