Tribune calls off $3.9B buyout by Sinclair

Tribune Media terminates deal to be bought by Sinclair

The company already owned 173 stations in 81 markets.

The FCC vote means that the "merger can not be completed within an acceptable timeframe, if ever", Tribune CEO Peter Kern said.

The FCC said in July Sinclair "did not fully disclose" facts about the merger, raising questions about whether the company had "attempted to skirt the commission's broadcast ownership rules" and would, in fact, actually control the stations Sinclair said it was divesting.

Tribune withdrew from its $3.9 billion buyout by Sinclair, ending a bid to create a massive media juggernaut that could have rivaled the reach of Fox News.

As a result, Sinclair planned to sell off 21 of its stations.

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"Instead, in an effort to maintain control over stations it was obligated to sell, Sinclair engaged in unnecessarily aggressive and protracted negotiations with the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission (the "FCC") over regulatory requirements, refused to sell stations in the markets as required to obtain approval, and proposed aggressive divestment structures and related-party sales that were either rejected outright or posed a high risk of rejection and delay-all in derogation of Sinclair's contractual obligations". Its portfolio of 42 local TV stations as well as assets such as the WGN America cable network, were viewed as attractive and will likely remain so given the company's consistent financial performance of late. "Accordingly, we have exercised our right to terminate the merger agreement, and, by way of our lawsuit, intend to hold Sinclair accountable", he said. Tribune is seeking an amount "including but not limited to approximately $1 billion of lost premium to Tribune's stockholders and additional damages in an amount to be proven at trial".

Sinclair, a Maryland-based company which is the largest owner of local news stations in the USA, is notorious for its right-wing, pro-Trump slant, and its unusual system of distributing slanted "must-run" content to its local stations to work into their broadcasts. It announced plans past year to merge with Chicago-based Tribune, a deal that would have given Sinclair access to 72 percent of American households. Here, the WGN Radio sign appears on the side of Tribune Tower in downtown Chicago.

Sinclair did not respond to a request for comment Thursday morning.

Advocacy group Free Press said in an FCC filing in August 2017 that Sinclair forces its TV stations to "air pro-Trump propaganda and then seeks favors from the Trump administration".

Sinclair has defended the decision to have its anchors read from the same script across the country as a way to distinguish its news shows from unreliable stories on social media.

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