Bill O’Reilly is leaving Fox News with a payout of up to $25 million, the equivalent of one year of his salary, two people briefed on the matter said Thursday.
For 21st Century Fox, the network’s parent company, payouts related to sexual harassment allegations at Fox News now total more than $85 million. The vast majority of that — up to $65 million in exit packages — is being paid to the men who were ousted from the network because of the harassment allegations.
O’Reilly, 67, was forced out of the network on Wednesday following the disclosure of a series of sexual harassment allegations against him and an internal investigation that unearthed more women with complaints about his behavior.
His ouster was a stunning departure for 21st Century Fox, which long stood by O’Reilly even as allegations and settlements started to add up. O’Reilly, who started at Fox News in 1996, was considered the network’s top asset. His nightly program, “The O’Reilly Factor,’’ generated high ratings and pulled in hundreds of millions in advertising revenue.
But pressure mounted on the company to take action after a New York Times investigation found that O’Reilly and the company had reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior by him. The agreements totaled about $13 million, the majority paid by him.
Earlier this year, the network extended O’Reilly’s contract by four years. At the time, the company was aware of multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him and had even reached two settlements involving such complaints. His previous contract had been set to expire in 2017.
But the new contract provided the company with some protections. Those included a provision that O’Reilly could be dismissed if the company was made aware of other allegations against him or if new ones arose, according to one person briefed on the matter. The contract also included provisions meant to get O’Reilly to address his behavior, the person said.
In addition, though the contract was extended, it also modified the company’s financial commitment to O’Reilly if he was dismissed, so that he would receive a maximum of one year salary, according to two people. The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations.
The exact financial terms of O’Reilly’s exit package are not known, but it is expected that the company will disclose them in future regulatory filings.
Last summer, Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, left the network with an exit package worth $40 million after several women made sexual harassment allegations against him. The company has reached settlements with at least six women who accused him of sexual harassment, according to a person familiar with the matter.
One was Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor. She sued Ailes last July and left the network with a $20 million settlement.
Ailes and O’Reilly have denied the allegations.