Seattle-based Fisher Communications, parent of KOMO-TV and several other Northwest television and radio stations, announced Thursday that it will merge with Sinclair Broadcast Group of Maryland.
According to a joint news release, Sinclair will acquire Fisher in a deal valued at approximately $373.3 million.
Fisher owns 20 television stations in eight markets from Seattle and Portland to Idaho Falls and Bakersfield, Calif., and reaches an estimated 3.9 percent of all United States TV households. The company also owns Seattle radio stations KOMO-AM, KOMO-FM, KPLZ-FM and KVI-AM.
Assuming the deal gains the approval of regulators and Fisher shareholders, and following the recent acquisitions of stations from the Barrington and Cox networks, Sinclair will “own and operate, program or provide sales services” to 134 television stations in 69 markets, and will reach approximately 37.7 percent of TV households nationwide.
The company is affiliated with all major networks, led by 29 Fox affiliates, according to the release.
“We are excited to acquire Fisher and expand our coverage westward, especially in the two key markets of Seattle and Portland,” stated David Smith, Sinclair president and CEO. He noted the high quality of news broadcast by Fisher, and said he hoped to expand on those traditions while “improving the cash flow of the stations through the benefits that come with our scale.”
The Fisher board of directors made the decision to merge after conducting a “review of potential strategic alternatives,” said Paul Bible, Fisher board chairman.
Following the review, he stated, “the board concluded this all-cash transaction was the best path to maximizing value for the shareholders.”
The deal is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission, antitrust clearance and an affirmative vote by holders of two-thirds of Fisher’s outstanding shares.
Sinclair stock (SBGI) rose 8.52 percent to $23.69 in Thursday trading; Fisher stock (FSCI) rose 5.58 percent to $41.09.
The financial website Motley Fool said following the Barrington acquisition, “Sinclair is apparently on the warpath, as this acquisition comes just three days after it spent $99 million on four Cox stations.”
Sinclair has not been without controversy since it began broadcasting as Baltimore’s first UHF station in 1971.
During then-Sen. John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign, the broadcaster sought to distribute a program, “Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal,” that was critical of Kerry.
The program prompted a spokesman for the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War to respond at the time: “The issue still at hand is that Sinclair is presenting its program about ‘Stolen Honor’ as news, when the company is blatantly trying to influence the election.”
One retired Tacoma broadcast executive bears little love for the Maryland company.
“Sinclair is known for streamlining and squeezing as much out of a marketplace as it can,” said Diane Lachel, former government and community relations manager for Tacoma’s Click Network. Lachel led the network’s recent negotiations with Fisher concerning the cost of retransmission rights for KOMO programing.
A Fisher spokesman would not comment Thursday concerning any changes to programming after completion of the Sinclair transaction.
The News Tribune is being sued by Fisher and other broadcasters to prevent disclosure of financial records the newspaper is seeking concerning the price paid by Click Network for certain programming rights.
C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535