DAYTON, OHIO — On January 26, RBR+TVBR overheard a conversation involving a Cox Media Group Ohio employee who noted “we should know in a couple of weeks” what their fate would be, given rumors that all of the Cox Media Group TV properties were being offered in what CMG President Kim Guthrie called “a merger or partnership.”
With a water crisis triggered by a water main break under the Miami River engulfing this Miami Valley metropolis from Valentine’s Day afternoon through Friday morning, the powers that be waited until the midday hours to deliver the region perhaps its second-most important story of the day: A majority interest in Cox Media Group’s TV is being taken by Apollo Global Management.
However, Apollo is going a bit deeper in Dayton, the birthplace of Cox Media. Here, it is gaining majority interest in the Dayton Daily News and CMG’s radio properties, comprised of Country WHKO-FM “K99.1,” a market leader in the Nielsen Audio ratings; Classic Hits WZLR-FM 95.3 in Xenia, Ohio, heard in Dayton at 101.1 MHz on W266BG; and News/Talk simulcast WHIO-AM 1290 & WHIO-FM 95.7.
Is it a purchase? Yes, technically.
Cox Enterprises will retain a minority stake in the TV stations, as well as the Dayton radio stations and daily newspaper. Also included in CMG Ohio are the Springfield News-Sun and Butler-based Journal News.
Cox will join Apollo in forming a new company to operate these stations. This company will be headquartered in Atlanta.
The announcement confirms a February 10 report from Reuters that Cox and Apollo had reached a deal.
The deal, according to both Reuters, is valued at $3 billion. Cox did not reveal any dollar amount placed on this arrangement.
Cox’s roots in television go back more than 70 years, with Dayton-based WHIO-7 touted as America’s “No. 1 CBS affiliate.”
In an announcement made Friday, Cox Enterprises said, “We firmly believe that our TV portfolio — and our teams of talented people at the properties — will thrive and grow by being part of this new venture.”
Cox Enterprises President/CEO Alex Taylor added, “We didn’t make this decision lightly. Many CMG employees have been with us for the majority or all of their careers. I’m proud beyond words of how the entire CMG team has operated throughout the years, especially during the past several months. Our CMG team is the best in the business. They have shown courage and resilience as we step into a brighter, stronger future.”
With the purchase of a majority interest in CMG’s broadcast TV stations by Apollo Funds, the new company will be comprised of the Dayton holdings and the following TV stations:
- ATLANTA: WSB-2 (ABC)
- BOSTON: WFXT-25 (FOX)
- CHARLOTTE: WSOC-9 (ABC) and WAXN-64 (Unaffiliated)
- DAYTON: WHIO-7 (CBS)
- JACKSONVILLE: WFOX-30 (FOX)
- MEMPHIS: WHBQ-13 (FOX)
- ORLANDO: WFTV-9 (ABC) and WRDQ-27 (Unaffiliated)
- PITTSBURGH: WPXI-11 (NBC)
- SEATTLE-TACOMA: KIRO-7 (CBS)
- TULSA: KOKI-23 (FOX) and KMYT (MyNetwork TV)
Not included in the deal: WJAX-47 in Jacksonville, the CBS affiliate.
RBR+TVBR exclusively reported in late February 2018 that this facility was being spun to Vero Beach, Fla.-based Bill Hoffman, the former CMG President. Hoffman bought the station outright for $12.17 million; Cox has a shared services agreement, enabling it to effectively control WJAX-47. Therefore, Apollo Funds and Cox Enterprises could shift this SSA to the new entity they are forming.
That yet-to-be-named entity will likely include the Northwest Broadcasting stations.
As RBR+TVBR reported on Dec. 3, 2018, Apollo teamed up with Brian Brady’s Northwest Broadcasting in a now-failed bid to acquire Tribune Broadcasting. This followed rumors that emerged in mid-July 2018 that Apollo was joining P2 Capital Partners in investigating a bid for Nexstar Media Group; P2 has a very small stake in Nexstar, and at the time no one suspected Tribune’s acquisition by Sinclair would be aborted.
Now, Nexstar’s spins from its Tribune buy are being eyed by Apollo, which would combine the Cox stations and Northwest stations with these soon-to-be former Nexstar properties.
Barclays PLC, Moelis & Company LLC and BDT & Company LLC served as the financial advisors and Eversheds Sutherland LLP and Covington & Burling LLP served as the legal advisors to Cox Enterprises in this transaction.
RBC Capital Markets LLC, Guggenheim Partners LLC, and LionTree Advisors LLC served as the financial advisors; and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and Greenberg Traurig served as the legal advisors to the Apollo Funds in this transaction.
“We are extremely excited for our funds to acquire a majority interest in Cox Media Group’s broadcast television stations and are humbled by Cox Enterprises’ decision to entrust us to steward these stations and carry on the Cox legacy. We have an extraordinary amount of respect and admiration for the journalistic integrity, news quality, and commitment to community across Cox Media Group’s broadcast stations,” said David Sambur, Senior Partner at Apollo. “We look forward, in collaboration with Cox Enterprises, to supporting the high standards to which each station operates and contributing to the platform’s future growth and prosperity.”