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Denver TV stations to keep owner as Sinclair-Tribune deal blows up

Author: Mark Harden - August 9, 2018 - Updated: August 9, 2018

Both KDVR-Fox31 and KWGN-2 are housed in this building at 100 E Speer Blvd. in Denver (Google Maps Street View.)

A proposed $3.9 billion deal to combine two broadcasting giants has fallen apart and is headed to court. And that means that a pair of sister Denver television stations won’t change hands after all (at least for now).

A buyout deal under which Sinclair Broadcasting Group would take over Tribune Media Co. was terminated Thursday, and Tribune is suing Sinclair for $1 billion, alleging breach of contract in its complaint.

As part of the deal, two Tribune-owned TV stations in Denver — KDVR-Fox31 and KWGN-Channel 2 — would have changed hands.

The two stations are operated jointly at a shared building at Speer Boulevard and Lincoln Street in Denver.

Under the deal, Channel 2 would have been part of the expanded Sinclair, and Fox31 would have been bounced off to another media company, Twenty-First Century Fox. Sinclair was selling off some of its stations in an attempt to meet regulatory concerns about the Tribune tie-up.

But for now, Tribune will retain both Denver stations.

Tribune currently operates 42 stations; Sinclair has about 190.

The deal — first announced in May 2017 — was already in trouble before Thursday’s news, with Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai expressing reservations last month.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Tribune suit accuses Sinclair of engaging in “unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations” with regulators concerning its plans to divest certain stations and yet retain a degree of control over their operations.

Tribune CEO Peter Kern, in announcing the demise of the deal, said in a statement that the Sinclair deal “cannot be completed within an acceptable time frame, if ever. This uncertainty and delay would be detrimental to our company and our shareholders.”

The deal was roundly opposed by various liberal groups that regard Sinclair as a megaphone for conservative views.

In April, news site Deadspin posted video that showed several Sinclair stations’ news anchors reading an identical script expressing concern about “one-sided news stories plaguing the country.”

In response to the FCC commissioner’s objections, President Donald Trump tweeted his support of the deal, saying it would create a “much needed conservative voice by and for the people.”

Mark Harden

Mark Harden

Mark Harden is managing editor of Colorado Politics. He previously was news director at the Denver Business Journal; city editor, online news editor, state editor, national editor and popular music critic at The Denver Post; and an editor and reporter at newspapers in the Seattle area and San Francisco.