Landmark Communications on the auction block


Landmark Communications is up for sale, although the company emphasized that it may sell some assets and keep others, depending on market conditions. The private company,  had an estimated 1.75 billion in revenues in 2006. The crown jewel is The Weather Channel, one of the last remaining major independent cable networks. The New York Times quoted one expert who estimated the cable net and its related assets, including, could fetch five billion bucks. That would be a premium price for a primo property. Lehman Brothers analyst Anthony DiClemente said the high valuation is being driven in part by the website. “According to Nielsen/NetRatings, the website saw 32 million visitors in November, which makes it the 18th largest site in the US. If we assume the average EBITDA multiple of 23x for the sale of The Weather Channel cable network, resulting in a price tag of roughly three billion, this would imply a value of roughly two billion for,” he said.  

There have reportedly been numerous offers over the years from major media companies interested in purchasing The Weather Channel, but until now Landmark’s principal owner, retired Chairman and CEO Frank Batten Sr., pictured, has said no. Now the Batten family is entertaining the possibility of selling all or part of the company. “At this early stage, we cannot speculate on where this process will lead,” said Frank Batten Jr. the current Chairman and CEO.  

Landmark owns two television stations:  KLAS-TV (Ch. 8, CBS) Las Vegas and KTVF-TV (Ch 5, CBS) Nashville. It also owns nine daily newspapers and more than 100 non-daily and specialty publications.
JPMorgan Chase is advising the company on selling The Weather Channel. Lehman Brothers is advising the company regarding sales of the other properties.

TVBR observation: This seems like an inopportune time to be trying to sell major media properties, particularly daily newspapers, but The Weather Channel is such a rare prize that it will certainly ignite a spirited bidding war. We note, though, that Frank Batten Sr. is up there in years and you can’t put off estate planning forever. Also, he has been very active in recent years in giving away large chunks of his wealth to charity. Selling The Weather Channel, if not all or most of the company, will produce liquidity that even a billionaire sometimes has need of. Who will be bidding for The Weather Channel? Immediate speculation focused on News Corporation, NBC Universal and Comcast.