At a 2017 NAB Show opening cocktail reception, it was hard not to spot Raycom Media President/CEO Pat LaPlatney holding court with Gray Television President/CEO Hilton Howell III.
Brokers privately noted that the two companies make a nice fit.
All of that conjecture has turned into concrete conversation over a major broadcast media merger that comes on the heels of Sinclair Broadcast Group’s intended combination with Tribune Media.
Gray and Raycom are combining their companies in $3.6 billion deal.
In a statement released in the 7am hour, Eastern, on Monday (6/25), Gray and Raycom said the “transformative transaction will create the single largest owner of top-rated local TV stations and digital assets in the country.”
Yes, this would create the nation’s third-largest broadcast TV broadcast group, while the storied Raycom name would fade into the history books alongside Media General, which early last year completed its merger with Nexstar Broadcasting.
“This transaction marks Gray’s transformation from a small, regional broadcaster into a
leading media company with nationwide scale based on high-quality stations with exceptional talent in attractive markets,” the companies note.
And, they acknowledged what media brokers and at least one Washington, D.C., communications attorney privately discussed some two years ago in Las Vegas: Gray and Raycom “have highly complementary portfolios of television stations as well as highly complementary company cultures.”
Gray and Raycom also talked highly of each other’s “award-winning journalistic commitments, and long histories of commitments to exceptional community service.”
LEADERSHIP LAID OUT
For those wondering how the new Gray will look from the soon-to-be expanded C-Suite, the companies offered the following structure:
- Pat LaPlatney — President/co-CEO
- Hilton Howell — Executive Chairman/co-CEO
- Bob Smith — COO
- Nick Waller — Chief Administrative Officer
Currently, Smith and Waller server as co-COOs. Their new positions become effective July 1.
Smith will oversee station operations and sales operations through the closing of the transaction. During that period, Waller will oversee human resources, information technology, traffic and CRM systems, capital projects, and performance benchmarking.
Waller will also focus on the transition and integration of pending acquisitions, the companies said.
The companies also note that ex-Raycom President/CEO, Paul McTear, and LaPlatney will each take seats on Gray’s Board of Directors.
A Q4 2018 closing is expected.
It remains to be seen whether the Department of Justice and/or the FCC will place strict scrutiny on the proposed merger, and if divestitures or the creation of a broker-administered trust is forthcoming.
MORE FROM RBR+TVBR: ‘A Compelling Combination’ — a detailed look at the new Gray Television, after its planned Raycom Media merger.