Broadcaster CBS settled its termination dispute with fired radio shock jock Don Imus Tuesday, a possible step toward Imus reviving his multimillion-dollar career with a rival broadcaster.
Imus was fired in April after referring to a mostly black university women's basketball team as "nappy-headed hos," a racial slur that generated a storm of controversy and led CBS Radio to cancel his "Imus in the Morning" show.
The Imus show was produced and broadcast by CBS-owned WFAN radio station in New York and syndicated on some 60 stations across the country. The show was also simulcast on cable television's MSNBC.
CBS and MSNBC first suspended Imus's show for two weeks, but as calls to fire Imus grew, notably from New York civil rights leader Al Sharpton, MSNBC canceled the Imus show and CBS did so the next day.
"Nappy" is an antiquated term referring to coarse, curly hair and "ho" is slang for whore.
"Don Imus and CBS Radio have mutually agreed to settle claims that each had against the other regarding the Imus radio program on CBS. The terms of the settlement are confidential and will not be disclosed," CBS and Imus's lawyer said in a joint statement.
WFAN announced Tuesday that former NFL quarterback and CBS sports broadcaster Boomer Esiason, and Craig Carton, an afternoon FM talk radio host, would host a show that takes over Imus's former weekday time slot from 6 am to 10 am.
Imus threatened to sue CBS for breach of contract and hired famed lawyer Martin Garbus, who once represented politically incorrect comedian Lenny Bruce in the 1960s.
Garbus would only confirm a settlement had been reached, offering no other comment.
The Drudge Report Web site reported Imus would receive $20 million.
Where Next for Imus?
With the settlement completed, focus shifted to who might hire Imus.
Unconfirmed media reports have mentioned Sirius Satellite Radio and New York radio station WABC, which is owned by Citadel Broadcasting, as possible suitors.
"The fact that he had been fired wouldn't stop me from having Don work for me again. He makes you a lot of money," Sirius Satellite CEO Mel Karmazin, a former top executive at CBS, told Fox News Channel last week.
A Sirius spokesman declined comment on Tuesday. Representatives of WABC and Citadel did not return calls.
Despite the negative publicity, Imus is capable of generating tens of millions of dollars in advertising revenue a year through high ratings, experts say.
"If someone is negotiations with him, they have done enough due diligence with their advertisers to know revenues will increase and advertisers will support it," said employment and entertainment lawyer Barry Peek, a partner in the law firm Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C..
"I would think it's going to be quick," Peek said of an Imus comeback. "For Imus time is of the essence. Out of sight, out of mind."
In any case, Sharpton said he would be watching.
"Wherever he resurfaces, we at National Action Network and other groups will be watching and monitoring him," Sharpton said in a statement. "Mr. Imus has the right to work but we have the right to make sure that this repeat offender does not return and continue what he has done historically."