Tribune Media shareholders have overwhelmingly approved a $3.9 billion deal for the company to be acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, one that will make Sinclair the nation’s most powerful local TV broadcaster.
The news comes a day after the FCC’s Media Bureau said it was stopping its 180-day clock on a ruling about the transaction, a fairly standard move as the agency seeks additional comments. It said the clock resumes November 2, the same day comments are due.
Sinclair and Tribune announced in May an agreement on an acquisition for $3.9 billion in cash and stock, plus the assumption of $2.7 billion in debt. If approved, Sinclair will own, operate, or serve 233 TV stations in 108 markets and be, by far, the biggest independent owner of Fox affiliates.
Critics claim the deal would give Sinclair unprecedented power to politicize local TV news, raise pay TV and ad rates, slow the growth of wireless broadband, and determine what new broadcast technologies can succeed. Allied Progress, an activist group staunchly opposed to the deal, urging observers not to put too much stock in the shareholder vote. “The fact is that this deal is a long way from closing. Just yesterday the FCC stopped their review as additional issues are addressed, the DOJ is in the midst of their own review, and opposition to the merger continues to grow by the day,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress.
Tribune said more than 99% of the votes cast today by the Company’s Class A common stockholders and Class B common stockholders at a special meeting voted to approve the merger. Those voters represent about 85% of the company’s Class A and Class B common stock outstanding, it said.
“Today’s vote is an important milestone in the merger process and confirms that Tribune stockholders strongly support this transaction and the value it delivers,” Tribune Media CEO Peter Kern said. “We look forward to continuing our work with Sinclair toward the closing of this deal.”
At the NAB Show New York this week, several executives from the historically press-shy Sinclair, including CEO Chris Ripley, have appeared on panels and there have been several onstage mentions of the deal as a fait accompli. When moderator Harry Jessel said the CEOs on one panel represented some 350 U.S. TV stations, “assuming that Sinclair gets Tribune,” Ripley shot back, “That would be an accurate assumption.” On a different session, Arthur Hasson, COO of programming for Sinclair, was asked about the company’s view of off-net syndication given its scale. “We have a lot of stations,” Hasson said, “so every good show is important to us.”