If former Vice President Al Gore and his wife Tipper divorce, what happens to Current TV, the channel owned by the ex-VP?
The couple of 40 years announced their separation via email on Tuesday. (See accompanying story: "CNN Incoveniently Posts Al Gore's Email Address.")
Gore founded Current TV's parent company, Current Media, in 2005 with businessman Joel Hyatt, and he serves as its chairman.
Current's fate depends on whether the company is profitable, but that in any case, it is unlikely Tipper Gore would get a piece of the company, according to a longtime divorce lawyer in Nashville, where the Gores reside.
John Hollins Sr. with the law firm of Hollins, Raybin and Weissman in Nashville has been working on divorce cases in Tennessee for over 20 years. Hollins told TheWrap that while legally Current's fate depends on whether the company is profitable, it is unlikely Tipper Gore would get a piece.
Indeed, Current has had a rough first five years.
It announced plans for an IPO in January 2008, but those were scrapped last fall due to "market conditions." In November of that year, Current TV laid off about 60 staffers.
"Tennessee is an equitable distribution state not an equal distribution state, although in long marriages, courts tend to divide the marital assets essentially equally," Hollins told TheWrap.
However, Hollins says that is unlikely in the Gores' case. "Generally, in a divorce case, the judges want to separate the parties so that they don't have to deal with each other. … What is more likely is that the company would be valued by a business appraiser and she would be awarded another asset equivalent to it."
Hollins said the company would probably go to Gore if it is indeed losing money. "I think if it has a negative value, the courts are just going to leave it with him."
Though the Gores announced their separation, it is not immediately clear whether they have actually filed for divorce. Hollins said this leaves open the possibility that they could file a marital dissolution agreement, which would allow them to divide their assets on their own and avoid a full-blown court case.
However they resolve their divorce, Gore may find himself less liquid than he has been in the past as a result of alimony payments or other divided assets. It remains to be seen what will happen to Current if its deep-pocketed chairman finds himself on a tighter budget.
As of this writing, Al Gore and Joel Hyatt have not responded to multiple requests for a comment on this story. A spokesman for Current TV declined to comment.