Byron Allen’s empire-building plans just got a whole lot bigger.
Roughly two years after buying the Weather Channel for $300 million, the comedian-turned-media-mogul is making a run at TV station owner Tegna, valued at $3.5 billion, The Post has learned.
The 58-year-old head of Allen Media Group — known for his role on NBC’s ’80s TV series “Real People” — has made a non-binding offer to acquire the owner of 62 broadcast stations for $20 a share, or $4.4 billion, sources said.
Allen sent the offer directly to Tegna CEO Dave Lougee on Wednesday after getting commitments from a consortium of co-investors, a person close to the bidding group told The Post.
The group also has the backing of banks that have expressed a willingness to underwrite the deal, which would give Allen ownership of stations like KXTV in Sacramento, Calif., and KPNX in Phoenix, the source said.
Allen isn’t without competition, however. The Tysons, Va.-based broadcaster is also being circled by buyout firm Apollo Global Management, which owns of 14 Cox Media TV stations, and rival Gray Television, according to The Wall Street Journal. Apollo and Gray have each also offered to buy Tegna for $20 a share, or $4.4 billion, according to a Journal report last week.
Allen is throwing his hat in the ring at a time when the market for financing has come to a screeching halt amid the coronavirus panic.
That could hurt Allen and Apollo, which both need to borrow money to buy Tegna — a former unit of USA Today publisher Gannett, sources said.
The cash-and-stock offer by Gray Television, owner of 145 TV stations including WFLX in West Palm Beach, Fla., and WABI in Bangor, Maine, could also be vulnerable to coronavirus-inspired recession fears, which have sent Gray’s stock down 29 percent so far this month.
The Tegna auction is still in relatively early stages, however, and it could be weeks before any winner is picked, especially now that Allen is entering the picture, said a source with direct knowledge of the process.
In addition to the Weather Channel, Allen owns production company Entertainment Studios, which is behind networks like Comedy.TV, known for “Funny You Should Ask,” and JusticeCentral.TV, which features fare like “The Verdict With Judge Hatchett.”
Allen also was part of a $10.6 billion deal that closed in August — led by conservative broadcast company Sinclair — to buy 21 regional sports networks previously owned by 21st Century Fox.
His bid to buy Tegna is part of a larger plan to gain negotiating power with cable networks, including Comcast, who he sued in 2015 alleging racial discrimination, sources said.
Tegna would better position Allen to pressure cable companies like Comcast to pick up his less popular networks if they also want access to his broadcast stations.
Allen also plans to broadcast shows from his networks on the Tegna stations, which he thinks will result in hundreds of millions in savings, a source said.
Allen, who is African American, sued Comcast for refusing to air his channels, claiming race was a factor. The cable giant countered that it rejected the channels because of their low viewership.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case in November. Comcast had appealed a lower court’s ruling to let the suit proceed to trial if Allen could show discrimination played some role in Comcast’s programming decisions.
The high court is expected to weigh in by June.
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