We’ve lost count of how many times Sinclair Broadcast Group tried to re-jigger its deal to acquire Tribune Media over the past 14 months, but we’re in the ball park when we say we’re on at least the sixth try.
Since even industry lobbyist/FCC chair Ajit Pai ultimately was offended by Sinclair’s blatant sidecar deals in which it tried to have its cake and eat it, too, Sinclair scrambled to salvage the deal that, as of now, is being consigned to administrative review limbo.
The new scheme to save the $3.9 billion deal called for Sinclair to acquire Tribune’s WGN in Chicago as part of the larger transaction.
WGN was considered the crown jewel of the deal and critical to Sinclair’s plan to launch a primetime broadcast alternative to Fox News.
It also called for KDAF in Dallas and KIAH in Houston be put into a divestiture trust and sold by an independent party after the acquisition was finalized.
Pai’s “serious concerns” arose from Sinclair’s most recent plan to sell WGN to Baltimore area businessman Steven Fader, who, ahem, just happens to be a friend and business associate of Sinclair chairman David Smith.
Sinclair also wanted the Tribune stations in Dallas and Houston to be divested to Cunningham Broadcasting, a long-standing beard that is actually controlled by allies of the Smith family.
Sinclair closed its announcement of the new deal with an appeal to regulators.
“We call upon the FCC to approve the modified Tribune acquisition in order to bring closure to this extraordinarily drawn-out process and to provide certainty to the thousands of Tribune employees who are looking for closure,” the company said.
It didn’t work.
Late yesterday evening, The FCC voted to send the entire matter to an administrative judge – which effectively kills it.
The official order will be released later today.
But it was a creative day at Hunt Valley, wasn’t it?