Atlanta company buys WTOK, 20 other stations
From staff and wire reports
April 3, 2002
Gray Communications Systems Inc. has agreed to buy 21 midsize-market television stations, including WTOK-TV in Meridian, for a cash deal valued at $500 million.
The stations now belong to Stations Holding Co. Inc., the parent company of Benedek Broadcasting Corp. based in Hoffman Estates, Ill. Benedek has 22 stations in 21 markets; the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection March 22.
Jim Ryan, chief financial officer for Gray Communications, said he doesn't expect changes at the Benedek Broadcasting stations, including WTOK, once the sale is final later this year.
Gray owns 13 stations in 11 markets, including Panama City and Tallahassee. The company also publishes four daily newspapers, including The Albany Herald, Gwinnett Daily Post and The Rockdale Citizen in Georgia and The Goshen News in Indiana.
Gray Communications, based in Atlanta, will finance the Benedek purchase by issuing debt and equity securities. The company also is considering a secondary public offering of Gray common stock.
Ray Chumley, vice president-general manager of WTOK-TV, said he learned about the deal Monday night. Chumley referred all questions to Benedek Broadcasting WTOK's owner since June 1988.
Mary Flodin, senior vice president and treasurer of Benedek, said that the sale could be completed in the next six months, after financing is approved and the Federal Communications Commission gives its OK.
Richard Benedek founded the company in 1979 when he bought WTAP television station in Parkersburg, W.Va. Benedek has 10 CBS affiliates, 7 ABC affiliates, 4 NBC affiliates and 1 FOX station.
The combined operation will have 35 stations, including 20 CBS affiliates, the most of any non-network broadcaster, Gray said. Benedek will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Gray. President Jim Yager will remain part of the management team.