Bidding war heats up for Tegna television stations

(Logo: TEGNA/Handout; Graphic: The Desk)

A pair of unsolicited offers made late last week could bring new ownership to a local television station near you.

Gray Television, Inc. and Apollo Global Management, Inc. made competing offers to acquire Tegna, Inc. and dozens of local broadcast stations across the country, according to two reports.

Gray made the first offer sometime last week for around $8.5 billion in combined cash and stock, valuing Tegna’s stock at around $20 per share, financial news wire Reuters reported.

Not to be outdone, hours after the Reuters report, Apollo matched that offer, but said it would pay pure cash for the stations.

Tegna has not publicly announced interest in selling its stations to anyone, and sources told Reuters it wasn’t clear if the company would accept either offer. Acceptance would likely require Tegna to divest stations — a situation that could be complicated if Apollo emerges as the victor (the private equity firm acquired majority control of more than a dozen stations from Cox Enterprises early last year; Tegna operates stations in markets where former Cox stations also operate).

Tegna declined to comment, citing an internal policy to not make public remarks on private financial matters or market speculation. Representatives from Apollo and Gray didn’t return email requests seeking comment.

Tegna operates more than five dozen local television stations and four radio stations in over 50 markets across the country. Its stations include Washington, D.C. CBS affiliate WUSA (Channel 9), Seattle NBC affiliate KING-TV (Channel 5), Sacramento ABC affiliate KXTV (Channel 10) and Denver NBC affiliate KUSA (Channel 9).

Gray runs dozens of stations in nearly 100 mostly-small television markets. Its stations include Tucson CBS affiliate KOLD-TV (Channel 13), Honolulu NBC affiliate KHNL (Channel 13) and CBS affiliate KGMB (Channel 5), Louisville NBC affiliate WAVE (Channel 3) and Reno ABC affiliate KOLO-TV (Channel 8).

Stations run by Cox Media Group, of which Apollo Global Management owns a 70 percent stake, include Boston Fox affiliate WFXT (Channel 25), Seattle CBS affiliate KIRO-TV (Channel 7), Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB-TV (Channel 2) and Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV (Channel 9).

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