Sinclair plans to sell 23 TV stations before closing $3.9B Tribune deal

TV antenna
Sinclair still anticipates its Tribune acquisition will close in the second quarter of 2018. (Pixabay)

Sinclair today announced its plans to sell off 23 television stations to various parties as it pursues its $3.9 billion acquisition of Tribune Media.

The stations being sold are a mix of Sinclair- and Tribune-owned stations. WGN-TV in Chicago is still listed as being sold to WGN-TV, a $60 million deal that was previously announced.

However, the list does not mention WPIX-TV in New York City being sold to Cunningham Broadcasting, which is owned by the estate of Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith’s mother, Carolyn Smith.

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That could have something to do with reports from earlier this month that the FCC had raised concerns about the close ties Cunningham Broadcasting has with David Smith.

WPIX is not listed among the stations being sold by Sinclair.

RELATED: Sinclair 'sidecar' deals for Tribune's Chicago and NYC stations draw extra FCC scrutiny

However, Cunningham is listed as the buyer for both KDAF, a Tribune-owned CW affiliate in Dallas, and KIAH, a Tribune-owned CW affiliate in Houston.

Other buyers include Howard Stirk Holdings, which is acquiring a Sinclair Univision station in Seattle, a Sinclair My Network station in Salt Lake City, and a Tribune independent station in Oklahoma City; and Meredith, which is acquiring a Tribune CW affiliate in St. Louis.

The deals for WGN as well as all stations being acquired by Stirk involve Sinclair providing joint sales and shared services.

Another significant buyer on Sinclair’s list is Standard Media, which is acquiring nine TV stations in markets including Oklahoma City, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Richmond, Virginia, and Des Moines, Iowa. Sinclair’s agreement with Standard Media includes the sale of three stations—for which Sinclair is not the licensee of these stations and will only be selling the assets it owns—in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania.

Standard Media, which is an affiliate of investment firm Standard General, said that it paid about $442 million for the stations it acquired from Sinclair. Standard Media has appointed broadcast industry veteran Deb McDermott as CEO.

"The stations we are acquiring in this transaction have tremendous potential in excellent markets. We are excited to work with the talented station teams established by Sinclair and Tribune and grow the business for years to come. 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," McDermott said.

Several of the stations Sinclair said it is selling are still without buyers, though the company said the buyer is TBA. Those stations include Tribune’s Fox affiliate in Seattle, Tribune’s CW affiliate in Miami, Tribune’s Fox affiliate in Denver and Tribune’s Fox affiliate in Sacramento.

"After a very robust divestiture process, with strong interest from many parties, we have achieved healthy multiples on the stations we are divesting," said Chris Ripley, president and CEO of Sinclair, in a statement. "While we continue to believe that we had a strong and supportable rationale for not having to divest stations, we are happy to announce this significant step forward in our plan to create a leading broadcast platform with local focus and national reach.  The combined company will continue to advance industry technology, including the Next Generation Broadcast Platform, and to benefit from significant revenue and expense synergies."

Sinclair still anticipates its Tribune acquisition will close in the second quarter of 2018.

Although Sinclair did not reveal the financial terms for its divestitures, Meredith in a separate announcement said that it paid $65 million for KPLR-TV, the CW affiliate in the St. Louis market.

This article has been updated to add comment from Standard Media.

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