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Tribune Co. to buy Salt Lake Fox affiliate, 18 other TV stations

Published July 1, 2013 11:31 pm

Media • Deal would make it nation's largest commercial TV operator.
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Tribune Co. on Monday said it will buy 19 television stations, including Fox affiliate KSTU Channel 13 in Salt Lake City, for $2.73 billion.

The stations, in 16 markets, are owned by Cincinnati-based Local TV Holdings Inc., which will be folded into Tribune Co.

The deal, which is expected to close by the end of the year, will make Tribune Co. the largest owner of commercial TV stations in the U.S., with a total of 42 properties. It comes at the same time the Chicago-based company is trying to sell its newspaper operations.

KSTU referred all questions to Tribune Co, whose spokesman said that although Utah viewers will not see any immediate changes on Fox 13, its too early to discuss specifics.

In the competitive syndication business, Fox 13 will be part of a powerful company that will be able to cut deals for the most desirable programming. Tribune Co. said it expects the deal to boost its profits immediately and result in more than $100 million in annual cost savings within five years. Local TV's holdings include stations in Denver, Cleveland, St. Louis and other major cities.

Tribune Co. said the increased scale will help it maximize its national and local advertising sales, while also giving it a larger footprint to distribute its video and digital content.

"This is a transformational acquisition for Tribune — it makes us the number one local TV affiliate group in America, expands the distribution platform for our high-quality video content, and extends the reach of our digital products to new audiences across the country," ┬áTribune Co. President and CEO Peter Liguori said in a statement.

Tribune Co. is one of the biggest newspaper companies in the U.S. It owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant and Orlando Sentinal in Florida, among other papers. It also owns superstation WGN in Chicago.

Tribune Co. is trying to sell its papers to focus on its more profitable broadcasting operations. The newspaper sale is being done at the behest of a group of lenders who took over the Tribune as part of a bankruptcy reorganization.

The newspapers have been hurt by a shift that has driven more readers and advertisers to the Internet and mobile devices. The downturn in print advertising was one of the factors that caused Tribune Co. to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008. It emerged from court oversight at the end of 2012.

Other traditional newspaper companies are also adding TV stations. Last month, Gannett Co., the publisher of USA Today, announced plans to buy TV station and newspaper owner Belo Corp. for $1.5 billion. If approved, the all-cash deal would make Gannett the fourth-largest broadcast group in the U.S.

Local TV is principally owned by private equity firm Oak Hill Capital Partners.

The deal remains subject to antitrust and Federal Communications Commission approvals. Tribune Co. said it has received committed financing of up to $4.1 billion and expects the deal will be financed through a combination of debt financing and cash on hand.

The Associated Press contributed to this story




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