Since loudly leaving CNBC in late March, Ratigan had been rumored to be going to ABC, perhaps to Good Morning America.
"In ABC's mind, they had—and have—a deal with Ratigan," says a source with knowledge of the negotiations. "This wasn't a handshake deal. This was a deal deal. ABC got fucked, royally."
News of Ratigan's departure from CNBC were accompanied by a leak to Page Six of a tape of him screaming at his producers: "I'm not going to host a fucking TV show that consists of reading fucking e-mails to fucking traders."
ABC News and Ratigan couldn't consummate their agreement because CNBC had a noncompete clause in Ratigan's contract, which barred him from negotiating with competitors until six months after he left. But CNBC could waive that clause, which it clearly did in order to let its sister network snatch Ratigan from ABC News's grasp.
Ratigan's move from CNBC to MSNBC, which are both units of NBC Universal, was expertly orchestrated—instead of simply working his way over internally, he left suddenly, with an attendant tabloid story making the announcement, and put himself on the open market so ABC News could bid up his price. Then he wound up back in the embrace of the same company, presumably with a tidy raise.
"If MSNBC is paying this guy what ABC would have paid him," the source says, "then they are way overpaying him."
An ABC News spokesman, citing the noncompete clause, denies that the network was ever in negotiations with Ratigan: "You can't lose something you never had."