New York Times selling off TV stations en mass to keep afloat

The New York Times Co. stated after the stock market closed Thursday that it plans to sell its broadcast-media group, including nine television stations, to Robert M. Bass’s Oak Hill Capital Partners for $575 million.

Facing the prospect of further circulation and advertising declines and the growing threat of online competition, the newspaper giant said it needs to dispose of the properties to focus on core operations (the old gray lady).

“Over the years (the stations) have provided their communities with high-quality programming and have contributed significantly to our financial performance,” Janet L. Robinson, the company’s chief executive, said in a press release. “We believe, however, that our focus now should be on the development of our newspapers and our rapidly growing digital businesses and the increasing synergies between them.”
The lead investor for Oak Hill, Bass is part of the Bass family of Texas oil billionaires. His brother, Sid, recently held a large stake in Walt Disney Co. Robert Bass’s net worth is placed at more than $5 billion. Oak Hill’s committed capital stands at $4.6 billion, the company said.

The nine stations were expected to account for $150 million in 2006 sales, or 4 percent of New York Times’ overall revenue when the plan to sell was announced in September, spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said. At that time, 2006 operating earnings from the group was estimated at $33 million.

The stations are affiliates of ABC, CBS and NBC, as well as one member of the MyNetworkTV group, and are in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia. Market sizes range from Memphis to Moline, Ill. They employ roughly 900 people, Mathis said.

While a number of media companies are disposing of assets in order to cut costs, don’t expect large newspaper companies to sell off their broadcast assets en masse like the Times has, said Steven Barlow, analyst for Prudential Securities in New York.

“I wouldn’t imagine you’ll see anything from (other media companies) on that front,” Barlow said.

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70 thoughts on “New York Times selling off TV stations en mass to keep afloat

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