Tribune pulls plug on $3.9B buyout by Sinclair

Sinclair Broadcast Group’s headquaters in Hunt Valley Md

The American Cable Association (ACA), which represents small- and medium-sized cable companies, also cheered Tribune's decision.

Tribune Media Co terminated its $3.9billion deal to be acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group and filed suit, the company said on Thursday, after regulators objected to the acquisition that had received support from US President Donald Trump. "Unfortunately, Sinclair choose to follow a regulatory strategy reflecting its own self-interests, rather its contractual obligations", Kern said.

In an announcement early Thursday morning, Tribune blamed Sinclair for the regulatory roadblocks that the deal has encountered at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Complicating matters is that Pai is under investigation for relaxing FCC rules to allow groups like Sinclair to add more stations.

The $3.9 billion deal would have given Sinclair control of more than 200 local television stations broadcasting to 72 percent of the U.S. population, and the announcement of the proposed merger in May 2017 raised concerns about Sinclair's market dominance.

To attempt to satisfy the FCC, Sinclair had said last month it would not divest WGN and would seek to put the two Texas stations into a divestiture trust to be sold and operated by an independent trustee.

Tribune said in the lawsuit that the merger agreement included a clause that when seeking to divest stations, Sinclair would sell in a manner that would avoid "even the threat" of any regulatory review.

In a surprise move in July, however, Pai said he had "serious concerns" and suggested Sinclair was trying to hide anticompetitive practices in its proposed purchase and divestiture of certain stations.

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In its hearing designation order, the FCC raised questions about potential "misrepresentation or lack of candor" in Sinclair's agreement to sell WGN-TV for $60 million to a Maryland auto dealer and longtime business associate of Sinclair Executive Chairman David Smith.

Subsequently, the FCC voted to subject Sinclair's divesture plan to a hearing before an administrative law judge, further delaying completion of the transaction.

A survey by the Washington Post in December 2016 showed that the coverage by Sinclair-run news outlets was "disproportionately" favorable to Trump in the election year. When the FCC shelved the deal, Trump said it was "So sad and unfair" that the agency in his administration wouldn't give its approval.

"This uncertainty and delay would be detrimental to our company and our shareholders".

Tribune formally shut down the deal on the same day it announced its quarterly earnings.

Sinclair owns or operates 173 broadcast TV stations in 81 markets, while Tribune has 42 stations in 33 markets.

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