The last-minute $787.5 million settlement of the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against Fox Corp. is a major step to make Fox News answer for false claims that Dominion’s machines influenced the 2020 election, a key negotiator of the deal said Wednesday.
“We feel good about being able to accomplish our goals of keeping Fox accountable and exposing the truth,” said Hootan Yaghoobzadeh, co-founder of private equity firm and Dominion owner Staple Street Capital, in an exclusive interview with CNBC’s Eamon Javers on Wednesday morning.
The settlement, which arrived just as opening statements were slated to start, averts a lengthy trial that could have seen Fox network boss Rupert Murdoch and popular TV hosts publicly testify. It abruptly ended what was set to be one of the most consequential cases against a media organization in years.
Hootan Yaghoobzadeh, co-founder of Staple Street Capital, during a news conference outside Delaware Superior Court in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday, April 18, 2023.
Samuel Corum | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Yaghoobzadeh was one of the people who cut the settlement deal. On Friday, just days before the trial’s scheduled start Monday, the presiding judge “really pushed the parties to see if if they could reach a settlement,” Yaghoobzadeh said.
He declined to share when Fox made its first offer. Yaghoobzadeh only added that the initial sum “was not enough.” Dominion initially sought $1.6 billion in damages.
“We were not willing to settle until the reams of information that we were able to gain through the discovery process had an opportunity to see the light of day,” he added.
When asked if there was any discussion to require Fox to issue a formal apology, or to force Fox anchors to apologize on air, Yaghoobzadeh stressed that “Fox has given admission that they agree with the court’s rulings that the allegations made around Dominion were false, were lies.”
“And for us that was the accountability that we were looking to get,” he said.
CNBC previously reported that anchors will not have to acknowledge the settlement or apologize on air, according to people familiar with the matter.
The massive settlement sum will go to legal fees and taxes first, Yaghoobzadeh said. From there, it will be “distributed to the shareholders, mostly, and management and employees,” he said.