The Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said Thursday it had entered into an agreement to purchase 18 television stations owned by Barrington Broadcasting Group LLC, including WPDE NewsChannel 15 in Myrtle Beach.
In a press release, Sinclair officials said they had formed a small-market television group called Chesapeake TV, of which WPDE will be a part. WPDE serves the Grand Strand and the Pee Dee. As the station call letters suggest, it was originally based in the Pee Dee, specifically, in Florence. The station moved its operations to Conway about 12 years ago.
The purchase price for the 18-station group was $370 million. Sinclair also entered into agreements to operate or provide sales services to another six stations. The 24 stations are located in 15 markets and reach 3.4 percent of the U.S. TV households. The transaction is subject to approval by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and antitrust clearance. Sinclair anticipates the transaction will close and fund in the second quarter of 2013, subject to closing conditions. Sinclair expects to finance the purchase price, less $20 million in deposits, through a bank loan and/or by accessing the capital markets.
As part of the deal, Sinclair will divest its holdings of several other TV stations. Those moves are required by FCC regulations.
Part of that sale includes the purchase of the license assets by Cunningham Broadcasting Corp. and Howard Stirk Holdings, a newly formed entity owned and controlled by Marion County native Armstrong Williams, founder and CEO of boutique communications firm, The Graham Williams Group.
In addition to his well-known work as a political commentator, Williams has spent nearly 20 years developing and producing high quality television programming, including prime-time specials with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, former Vice President Dick Cheney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. From 2001 to 2003, Williams served as COO of the Renaissance Cable TV Network with responsibility for all programming, advertising and content development.
In a statement, Williams said, “Today's announcement fulfills a lifelong dream to own and operate broadcast facilities and give back to an industry that I love.
”I have been privileged to work with the Sinclair Broadcast Group for years, and I am truly thankful for the opportunity it has provided,“ said Williams. ”Many in the industry talk about diversity and expanding opportunity, but here the Sinclair Broadcast Group is putting words into action,“
The holding company, Howard Stirk, is a combination of the maiden name of Williams' mother, Howard, and his father's middle name, Stirk.
”Knowing the humble, hard-scrabble beginnings of my family in rural South Carolina, I felt honoring my parents in this small way was the right thing to do,“ he said.
A native of Marion, Williams received his baccalaureate degree in political science and English from South Carolina State University and is a lifetime member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. He served on the President's Commission on White House Fellows appointed by President George W. Bush from 2001-2005, and presently serves on the Independence Federal S&L Bank, the Carson Scholarship Fund and the NEWSMAX Advisory Board.
Sinclair currently owns and operates programs or provides sales services to 87 television stations in 47 markets. Sinclair's television group reaches about 27.1 percent of US television households and includes FOX, ABC, MyTV, CW, CBS, NBC and Azteca affiliates.