Tuesday, 20 November, 2018

Tribune calls off $3.9B buyout by Sinclair

Tribune Broadcasting Los Angeles affiliate KTLA 5 is seen in Hollywood Los Angeles Tribune calls off $3.9B buyout by Sinclair
Lora Ball | 09 August, 2018, 21:17

Not only is it pulling out of the deal, but Tribune is suing Sinclair, arguing Sinclair's negotiations with the US Justice Department and FCC were "unnecessarily aggressive".

With the Tribune merger dead for good, Sinclair will look for other ways to acquire new stations.

"Our merger can not be completed within an acceptable timeframe, if ever", Tribune CEO Peter Kern said in a statement.

The $3.9 billion deal would have given Sinclair control of more than 200 local television stations broadcasting to 72 percent of the U.S. population, and the announcement of the proposed merger in May 2017 raised concerns about Sinclair's market dominance.

Nexstar Media Group (NXST.O) and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O), partnering with private equity, had considering buying Tribune before Sinclair announced its deal and are likely bidders, analysts have said. "Instead, Sinclair fought, threatened, insulted, and misled regulators in a misguided and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to retain control over stations that it was obligated to sell".

Tribune also said Sinclair refused to sell stations in the markets as required to obtain approval, and proposed aggressive divestment structures and related-party sales that were either rejected outright or posed a high risk of rejection and delay.

Sinclair, one of the nation's largest owners of TV stations, has become a significant outlet for conservative perspectives.

The complaint seeks $1 billion from Sinclair to cover the "lost premium to Tribune's stockholders", plus "additional damages in an amount to be proven at trial".

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By filing a lawsuit against Sinclair, Kern said, Tribune intends to "hold Sinclair accountable".

Hunt Valley, Md. -based Sinclair agreed to buy Tribune Media's 42 TV stations in May 2017, creating what would be the largest ownership group in the USA, with 233 stations.

Ted Rouse, a Chicago-based partner with Bain & Company specializing in mergers and acquisitions, said it may be hard for Tribune Media to return to business as usual after 15 months in limbo.

The Maryland company did not immediately respond early Thursday to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

The backstory: The deal was thought to be a sure thing, but the FCC threw a wrench into it after Chairman Ajit Pai, who is favorable to industry consolidation, raised questions about the validity of some of the deal terms provided to the commission by Sinclair.

Sinclair CEO Chris Ripley said Wednesday that Sinclair was working with Tribune to save the merger.

But constructing deals in such a way that would allow the company to maintain control or re-purchase them wasn't what Tribune had in mind.

Sinclair has defended the decision to have its anchors read from the same script across the country as a way to distinguish its news shows from unreliable stories on social media.

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