Tuesday, June 11, 2002
The prospective owner said it plans no changes in salaries or employee benefits.
By CYNTHIA VINARSKY
VINDICATOR BUSINESS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A new buyer has emerged to take over WYTV-33 in Youngstown and eight other television stations owned by the Chicago-based Benedek Broadcasting Corp.
Chelsey Broadcasting Co., a new affiliate of Chelsey Capital in New York City, has announced its plan to buy WYTV from Benedek, along with television stations in Texas, Minnesota, Missouri, Wyoming and Illinois.
The deal is expected to close in October, pending regulatory approval, and Chelsey spokesman Paul Goodman said the new owners plan no staffing changes.
He would not reveal the purchase price.
Bob Romine will stay on as general manager, he said, and employees' pay and fringe benefits will be maintained at present levels.
WYTV, an ABC affiliate, has the equivalent of 78 full-time employees.
The Chelsey offer comes just two months after WYTV officials said another company, Gray Communications Systems based in Atlanta, was buying the station and 20 others from Benedek as part of a $500 million, all-cash deal.
Gray still intends to buy Benedek and 13 of its stations, Goodman said. Though separate, the two deals are contingent upon each other.
"It's both or neither," he explained.
Dividing the stations
The plan to divide the stations between two companies was devised for several reasons, Goodman said, one being geographical.
Gray was less interested in WYTV and some of the other stations because it has no other stations nearby, he said.
Chelsey Capital had been a significant investor in Benedek's parent company, Stations Holding Co., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March. If the deals go through, Goodman said, all the creditors of Benedek and Stations Holding Co. will be paid 100 percent of what they are owed.
Gray already owns 13 television stations in 11 markets and publishes four daily newspapers.
WYTV will be Chelsey's flagship station, Goodman said, because it is the largest of the group and has the greatest growth potential. Other stations included in the deal are: KAUZ-TV in Wichita Falls, Texas; KDLH-TV in Duluth, Minn.; KMIZ-TV in Columbia, Mo.; KGWN-TV in Cheyenne, Wyo.; KGWC-TV in Casper, Wyo.; KHQA-TV in Quincy, Ill.; and WHOI-TV in Peoria, Ill.
Romine said WYTV is installing new equipment for high-definition TV transmission and expects to be offering the service by Aug. 1, although decisions have not been made on when or how long the high-definition service will be offered daily.
Additional equipment to fully convert the station to a digital platform, valued at between $400,000 and $500,000, is also on order.
The deal is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.