To win approval of FCC and DOJ regulators for its Tribune merger, Sinclair on Tuesday announced deals to sell 23 Tribune stations in 18 markets. Nine stations will go to Standard Media, a new group backed by Soohyung Kim and headed by Deb McDermott, for $442 million, while Meredith is getting KPLR St. Louis for $65 million. Sinclair is selling six to affiliated companies and will operate them under SSAs and JSAs. Sinclair did not name the buyer of the other seven, including six Fox affliates, but all eyes are on Fox.
Standard Media Group, a new broadcast company backed by hedge fund Standard General, has agreed to buy nine stations in seven markets that Sinclair is spinning off from its merger with Tribune, it was announced by the parties Tuesday afternoon. The price: $441.7 million.
Standard General, headed by Soohyung Kim, held controlling interest in Media General at the time of its sale to Nexstar early last year. Deb McDermott, who was COO of Media General under Kim, is the CEO of the newly formed Standard Media Group.
Sinclair also announced a number of deals involving 14 other stations. Along with the Standard Media deal, at least half are intended to bring Sinclair’s $3.9 billion merger with Tribune into compliance with FCC ownership rules and Justice Department antitrust regulators.
It is selling Tribune’s KPLR, a CW affiliate in St. Louis, to Meredith for $65 million.
It is spinning off six stations to affiliated companies, but will continue to operate them under joint sales and shared services agreements. They are:
- Tribune’s WGN Chicago (Ind.) to WGN-TV LLC
- Tribune’s KDAF Dallas (CW) to Cunningham
- Tribune’s KIAH (CW) to Cunningham
- Sinclair’s KUNS Seattle (Univision) to Armstrong Williams
- Sinclair’s KMYU Salt Lake City (MNT) to Armstrong Williams
- Tribune’s KAUT Oklahoma City (Ind.) to Armstrong Williams
And it is selling Tribune’s Fox affiliates in six markets —KCPQ Seattle, KDVR Denver, WJW Cleveland, KTXL Sacramento, KWSB San Diego and KSTU Salt Lake City — and Tribune’s CW affiliate in Miami, WSFL, to an unnamed party or parties.
According to industry sources, Fox has been negotiating to buy stations from Sinclair and is the likely buyer of most, if not all, of the seven. A Fox spokesman declined comment.
McDermott said in a prepared statement that the stations her group is picking up have great potential.
“Following this transaction, Standard Media will be well positioned to make further accretive acquisitions and we believe there is a compelling market opportunity to create another large player in the consolidating broadcast TV industry.”
The nine stations Standard is buying:
- Sinclair’s KOKH Oklahoma City (Fox)
- Tribune’s WXMI Grand Rapids, Mich. (Fox)
- Tribune’s WPMT Harrisburg, Pa. (Fox)
- Sinclair’s WXLV Greensboro, N.C. (ABC)
- Sinclair’s WRLH Richmond, Va. (Fox)
- Sinclair’s KDSM Des Moines, Iowa (Fox)
- Sinclair’s WOLF-WSWB-WQMY Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pa (Fox-CW-MNT)
Shortly after Sinclair’s press release on its FCC filing went out this afternoon, Tribune CEO Peter Kern sent an email to all Tribune Media employees.
In it, he said: “We’ve known for nearly a year that change was coming, but as I’ve said before, there is no reason to assume that this change won’t be for the better. Whether your parent company is Sinclair or any of the other media companies identified in today’s filing, you are the key ingredient to their ultimate success. Each of them will have their own unique opportunities and challenges, but each needs talented, experienced and dedicated employees like you.
“So, try to focus, as you have always done, on the business at hand — delivering outstanding local journalism and great content for our audiences and communities, collaborating with your colleagues, and driving results for our customers.”
Meredith President-CEO Tom Harty said the acquisition of KPLR is “consistent with our successful ‘Total Shareholder Return’ strategy and will be immediately accretive to earnings.”
Meredith will fund the acquisition using existing cash, the company said.