How Roger Ailes used "key man clauses" for his stars to protect himself

The key man clause explained 7 p.m. host Greta Van Susteren’s sudden exit last week. Others thought about making a similar move. Television industry sources say 3 p.m. newsman Shep Smith also expressed interest in possibly leaving.

“He’s sniffed around. Wouldn’t you, if you had the option?” one of the sources said.

This is not necessarily out of loyalty to Ailes. Rather, the existence of Ailes’ key man clauses opened a window for Fox hosts, even ones under long-term contracts, to size up the TV news landscape and contemplate new opportunities.

Smith decided not to make a move; he is said to be happy at Fox and staying put. In fact, Van Susteren may end up being the only host to defect as a direct result of Ailes’ resignation.

But the behind-the-scenes machinations show how the key man clauses injected even more uncertainty into the already uncertain post-Ailes era at Fox.