Tribune backs out of Sinclair merger

Emmett Rice
August 10, 2018

Tribune Media said today that it has "terminated its merger agreement with Sinclair Broadcast Group" and has sued Sinclair for breach of contract, seeking at least $1 billion. Sinclair also refused to sell certain stations that would have helped the deal secure regulatory approval, Tribune claimed in a news release.

By filing a lawsuit against Sinclair, Kern said, Tribune intends to "hold Sinclair accountable".

Sinclair has also been targeted with three federal class-action lawsuits over alleged fixing of ad prices, with sales teams from Sinclair and Tribune accused of colluding before the merger got final approval.

The merger would have created one of the largest broadcasting companies in the US.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

Sinclair wanted to purchase Tribune Media's 42 stations in 33 markets, but there was a problem. The FCC in July referred the merger to an administrative judge hearing, often a death knell for these types of deals. "It is unfortunate that Tribune Media Company terminated our merger agreement", CEO Chris Ripley said.

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Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. wanted the Chicago company's 42 TV stations and had agreed to dump nearly two dozen of its own to score approval by the Federal Communications Commission. A copy of the lawsuit will be posted on the Tribune Media website, www.tribunemedia.com, as soon as it has been made publicly available by the Court.

Tribune pointed to the same problems that the FCC found in Sinclair's proposal to divest some stations in order to stay under federal ownership limits.

"This uncertainty and delay would be detrimental to our company and our shareholders", Tribune Chief Executive Officer Peter Kern said in the statement. The owner of WGN-Ch.9 and dozens of other television stations, Tribune Media remains an acquisition target. His administration has ties to Sinclair and when the FCC threw its curveball, he complained on Twitter, calling it "sad" that the deal seemed unlikely to go through.

Sinclair has defended the decision to have its anchors read from the same script across the country as a way to distinguish its news shows from unreliable stories on social media. "Instead, Sinclair fought, threatened, insulted, and misled regulators in a misguided and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to retain control over stations that it was obligated to sell". Sinclair would have stations in Philadelphia, Washington, DC, Virginia, Indianapolis, Seattle, Sacramento, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Des Moines, Denver, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Miami, Greensboro, Richmond, Des Moines, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Oklahoma City, St. Louis and more.

The Maryland-based company did not immediately respond early Thursday to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Sinclair has become a significant outlet for conservative perspectives.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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