Tribune calls off $3.9 billion Sinclair media deal

Aug 10, 2018, 01:05
Tribune calls off $3.9 billion Sinclair media deal

Approval of the merger was widely considered inevitable because Trump's FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, is notoriously anti-regulation and pro-merger, and had rolled back ownership rules for broadcast media companies a year ago in a manner that seemingly paved the way for the deal.

Tribune Media has no further comment.

"In light of (the FCC order), this transaction can not be completed within an acceptable time frame, if ever", Kern said.

The deal's termination, which scuppers Sinclair's efforts to dramatically expand, comes after criticism by Democrats and public advocacy groups over whether the merger was in the public interest. "Accordingly, we have exercised our right to terminate the Merger Agreement, and, by way of our lawsuit, intend to hold Sinclair accountable", he added.

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The media merger hit the rocks on July 16, when Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said he had "serious concerns" about the merger because Sinclair's plan to divest some stations might not satisfy federal laws.

"The collapse of the merger is great news for dozens of local communities that will be spared Sinclair's slanted coverage and ridiculous must-runs.", said Craig Aaron, CEO of Free Press, referring to commentary segments produced at the corporate level that Sinclair requires its stations to broadcast.

"Instead, in an effort to maintain control over stations it was obligated to sell, Sinclair engaged in unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations with the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission (the "FCC") over regulatory requirements, 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-all in derogation of Sinclair's contractual obligations".

The company, the largest owner of local television stations in the United States, has drawn attention recently for repeating claims by U.S President Donald Trump that traditional television and print publications offer "fake" or biased news.

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Sinclair already has 173 stations around the country, including KENV in Salt Lake City, KOMO in Seattle and WKRC in Cincinnati.

Sinclair wanted to purchase Tribune Media's 42 stations in 33 markets, but there was a problem.

On Thursday, Kern said the FCC order, which has been the death knell for previous media mergers, was the final straw for Tribune Media.

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.

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"The evidence we've received suggests that certain station divestitures that have been proposed to the FCC would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name, in violation of the law", Pai said. It could have had a new show on WGN America or had an existing show moved there.

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