Al Gore Took the Money and Ran

Now comes word from Bloomberg BusinessWeek that former vice-president Al Gore is “Romney –rich,” with a net worth upwards of $200 million.

The Democratic standard bearer who won the popular vote but lost the 2000 presidential election in the Electoral College and Supreme Court emerged from a quarter-century in public life with not much more than the value of two homes he owned with his then-wife, Tipper. (The two divorced after 40 years of marriage in 2010.)

Since then, Gore has amassed a fortune nearly equal to that of Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential candidate and co-founder of Bain Capital. But whereas Romney built his estimated $250 million wealth deal by deal, tax shelter by tax shelter, over more than two decades, Gore made his money virtually overnight.

As Bloomberg’s Ken Wells and Ari Levy reported:

In January, the Current TV network, which he helped to start in 2004, was sold to Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Satellite Network for about $500 million. After debt, [Gore] grossed an estimated $70 million for his 20 percent stake, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Two weeks later, Gore exercised options, at $7.48 a share, on 59,000 shares of Apple Inc. stock that he’d been granted for serving on the Cupertino, California-based company’s board since 2003. On paper, it was about a $30 million payday based on the company’s share price on the day he claimed the options.

He may have $15-20 million more in unexercised Apple stock options, along with an unspecified amount from advising Google before that tech behemoth went public.

Gore, the two BusinessWeek writers say, is beloved in Silicon Valley. The late Steve Jobs personally invited him to join Apple’s board. He is a partner at top venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, and is known as a conscientious director who does his homework and “gets” technology.

Still, the windfall from the Apple options and his recent big Current score was, as Wells and Levy wrote, “as much about timing and luck as it is about business skills.”

Former Vice-President Al Gore Speaks in 2009. Photo: Flickr/Skoll World Forum.

Former Vice-President Al Gore speaks in 2009. Photo: Flickr/Skoll World Forum.

Like Romney, Gore made his money legally, but also like Romney, there’s a dark side to his wealth, which the sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera illustrates.

Current was a flailing also-ran best known for its disastrous hiring and firing of temperamental MSNBC host Keith Olbermann. Then along came Al Jazeera with a burning desire to reach the U.S. audience and buckets of money to pay for it.

But the government of Qatar, which backs Al Jazeera, gets much of its money from oil, the dirty fossil fuel responsible for a good chunk of climate change, against which Gore crusaded so effectively in an Academy Award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Faced with questions about hypocrisy (Questions? It is hypocrisy), Gore was barely able to come up with an excuse, telling Matt Lauer on Today that “its climate coverage has been far more extensive and high-quality.”

Also “extensive” on Al Jazeera has been an animus towards Israel, a nation Gore supported consistently throughout his political career:

“We see anti-Israel bias, at times crossing into anti-Semitism, across Al Jazeera’s platforms,” Michael Salberg, the Anti-Defamation League’s director of International Affairs, told POLITICO. “It’s not just the Arabic version; it seeps into the English language version…”

Through the Al Jazeera deal, Gore, who did so much to raise public awareness of environmental issues, has helped undermine his own cause and strengthened climate change deniers through his blatant hypocrisy.

To supporters and opponents alike, he looks like just another rich guy who cashed out while the getting was good.

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